Feb 28, 2013

Feb 28 - Desert Caballeros Western Museum

We needed to get out of the house and explore something today. One of the places we continually hear about from other explorers is the "western museum" in Wickenburg. So, we made the 12 mile drive from our park into town this afternoon and found the museum.

Officially titled the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, we found a delightful collection of Southwest art and western artifacts, tastefully displayed, in a comfortable facility that, some might argue, would more likely be found in a much larger city than Wickenburg. In any case, it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

One exhibit I'd like to highlight was a retrospective of Mary - Russel Colton's work, most of which was done in the first half of the twentieth century. She was a unique and talented individual, one of very few women artists of the time who appreciated the deserts of Arizona. I'm not talented at explaining art, but what I saw of her work I very much enjoyed. Besides being talented she worked hard with the native Hopi and Navajo indians to preserve their own artistic methods, materials, and way of life. Unfortunately, her last 30 years were marred by declining mental abilities, perhaps due to early onset Alzheimers??

"Best Friends" by George Molnar.  Must see it up close to appreciate it.
 Among the paintings in the museum's permanent art collection was one by George Molnar that positively blew me away. Titled "Best Friends" it was done in 1987. It's an "oil on canvas", but is so finely detailed and shaded that it appears to be a photograph. Just stunning. It will forever remain a mystery to me how anyone can, with paint, create images with that kind of fine detail, shading, and emotion. Click on either this... or this... link and peruse some of his work. If you think it looks good on a computer screen, you would be amazed to see it for real.

The museum also had a large collection of western artifacts and, on the lower level, a "streets of early Wickenburg" exhibit. You can stroll around early Wickenburg, drop into the general store, the saloon, or into the homes of some residents.

On the lighter side, I was amused for a period of time looking through all the cattle brands from this part of Arizona. The one that really caught my eye... the one I wish I could say I came up with... that some might say fits me to a "T", is this one:

And what brand is that you ask?? Well, that'd be the Lazy SOB.

Feb 27, 2013

Feb 27 - More Downsizing Details

nimble - moving quickly and lightly; sleek and agile...
At the risk of re-hashing thoughts I've written about before, I thought I'd write a summary of the key ideas driving the next chapter of our nomadic life. What we're calling "Sabbatical II" will be an evolution of our current fulltiming experience. Driven by our desire to be more nimble and flexible in our travels and explorations... it'll be a hybrid lifestyle that combines a couple of, what we're calling, "mooch-docks" (think mini-home-base or small apartment) coupled with a much smaller camper. These are a few of the key elements of Sabbatical II:

1. Two mini home-bases, one each in Wisconsin and the State of Washington, the two places our family is located.

2. No towing anything. Towing fosters "hub and spoke" exploration. We want to explore in a linear fashion during Sabbatical II.

3. A small Camper... at this point we're focused on either a truck camper or a Sprinter van conversion camper. The RV will serve as both our living quarters and our exploration vehicle.

4. Keep it simple... keep complexity and clutter to an absolute minimum.

Let me expound further on each of the elements above:

1. The mini-homebase: First some background: During our last 6 years of RV fulltiming we've developed a pattern... alternating periods of sitting and traveling. Most of our family is in either Wisconsin or the State of Washington and we find ourselves staying in each of those for long periods... a month or two at a shot. Between those periods of sitting, we travel and explore... usually for a couple months at a time, but perhaps longer if, like this year, we don't sit in one place during our southern escape from Winter. In total, we sit for about 6 months and we travel for about 6 months each year.

So an idea evolved as we talked about the future. If we could re-engineer things so that during the times we're visiting family we had a space we could call home... a place to find a little solitude, to sleep, a refuge... a place to keep extra clothes and stuff needed only rarely... if we could make that happen, our need for a big RV diminishes rapidly. You might think of it as glorified guest room or a studio apartment. In any case, we'd consider it a mini-homebase (or tongue-in-cheek... a "mooch-dock"). But there wouldn't be much mooching as, like most work-campers, we'd trade our services, brains, and brawn for the place to stay.

Of course, with our situation we'd need two of them... one in Wisconsin and the other in Washington. Tentatively, we've got two spaces in mind and have already talked with the landlords. There's still some work to do putting this piece of the Sabbatical II puzzle together, but we're hopeful we'll have both mini-homebases ready by the end of the summer.

2. No Towing Allowed: For maximum nimbleness, we'd like to get away from towing anything. No trailer, no towed car, no utility trailer... no "toad" of any kind. The dictionary definition of nimble is moving quickly and lightly, which pretty much captures our thoughts on the matter. The part of our current lifestyle we really enjoy is the traveling and exploring... and our aim is to maximize that by traveling in a more linear fashion... exploring as we go and finding a campsite when we're tired at the end of the day. With the bus-house and our current system, we have to return to our starting point every night.

3. A Small Camper: Going hand in hand with my comments on towing, nimbleness will require a small camper. And once you take towing out of the equation, there are very few RVs to consider. What we're focused on in our search at this time are slide-in truck campers and class B van conversions based on the MB Sprinter van. What we like about truck campers is the go anywhere capability of the 4 wheel drive truck we'd put it on, the ability to separate the truck from the camper, and the full size queen size mattress we'd be sleeping on. On the Sprinter van side of the equation, we like the high fuel efficiency of the MB diesel (20mpg), the van's stealthiness (without splashy graphics and crazy paint jobs, it doesn't look like a camper), and the all-in-one, motorhome nature, of the van (no need to go outside to start driving). Like almost everything in RVing and the nomadic lifestyle, it's all a series of compromises.

4. Keep it Simple: Small is beautiful in other ways too. We want our next camper to be simple and uncomplicated. No slide-outs, easy to access systems, a 12v compressor fridge so being level isn't as important and no leveling system is needed, and no air conditioner. Instead of a generator, even a portable ultra-quiet Honda, we'll opt for a larger solar PV array coupled with a couple hefty deep cycle batteries... enough to power our simple needs and the 12v compressor fridge too.

As long as we can touch home-base every once in a while, we think we can live for extended periods of time in a very small camper. Remember those folks who live out of their backpacks for long periods of time while seeing the world? I think we'll be a little more comfortable than that. And if we really need a break from the camper during a longer excursion we can always check into a motel for a night or two.

We have a wonderful collection of friends, acquaintances, and adventure travelers who are already living like this. They've proven to us it can be done... that it is being done. And they're having a great time living another version of the nomadic RV lifestyle.

I think we'll join them.

Feb 25, 2013

Feb 25 - Breaking Wind and a new Gas Buddy

I was committed to leaving RoVers Roost near Casa Grande Arizona on Sunday morning, yesterday. My reasoning?... well, traffic would probably be lighter around the Phoenix Megaplex as a lot of folks sleep in on Sunday mornings. That and I'd really had my fill of Casa Grande. During the five days we were in the area, two included high winds... strong enough to darken the skies with clouds of brown dirt from local cultivated farm fields. Also, unless you're willing to drive some serious distance, there's really not much to do or see around the CG area. No sir... I think it'll be a while before we itch to get back here again.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning was one of those days with the high winds. I wanted to go but the Safety Director pushed back a little. Eventually, (and I'm not sure why), she backed off and agreed not to lay down in front of the bus-house. So before I could say "blow me down..." we were on the road.

I usually don't report here on the price we pay for diesel fuel. But today I'm going to break my rule. I think it'd be safe to say we felt pretty good about snagging diesel at $3.939 when the average in this area is well over 4 bucks... maybe a full 25 cents over 4 bucks. I don't know if it's just me, or is anyone else noticing the differential in diesel prices between the big truck-stops (Loves, FlyingJ, Pilot) and the smaller in-town stations? Surprisingly, the big guys are as much as 20 or 25 cents higher than much smaller stations in many places. Perhaps my awareness is a result of a new-found BAF (best app forever) for my Android tablet... GasBuddy. This thing really works and, in my experience, is quite accurate and up to date. The data is collected and reported by users of the app... people like me. But there must be an army of folks out there reporting on all those stations for the information to be so timely and up-to-date.

The drive up I-10 was challenging (due to the wind), but manageable. There was no rush so we just poked along. While traffic was steady there was enough room for fast-travelin' folks to get around the big old bus-house. Don't think we caused anyone to be late.

From I-10 we caught the 101-loop up through Glendale and around the western side of Phoenix, followed by US-60 through Surprise Arizona (no surprises in Surprise..) which was our route to Wickenburg. We're at the Escapees North Ranch RV Park... plan to be here for at least a few days, perhaps as long as a week. There are at least three days of excursions on the docket which, combined with a couple days off for chores, gets us almost to a week.


Feb 23, 2013

Feb 23 - Casa Grande Update

This is going to be a very short update.  Tonight we're spending our 5th night at RoVers Roost... the Escapees co-op park just outside of Casa Grande Arizona. The last few days we've been busy with friends... just visiting, getting caught up, and doing a little exploring around the area. I'm not sure if it was our deodorant or our bad breath or what... but as of this morning they've all departed, all three sets of 'em, and left us here to clean up the mess. We did have a wonderful time, and I'll be writing a separate post on our last few days soon.  But tonight I'm going to keep it brief.

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, we're leaving too. Not sure yet where we'll end up at the end of the day, but I'll be sure to get a post up about our day after we arrive.

Thanks for reading...

Feb 21, 2013

Feb 21 - Pima Air Museum

Early start this morning. Well, an early start for us anyway. We met friends Jim and Bernie about 9am and drove the 75 miles to Tucson. Our objective for the day was to see the Pima Air Museum and, if time permitted, to add the Titan Missile Museum a little further south... near Green Valley. As it worked out, Pima was all we had time for. There's just so much to see.

Jim and Bernie hadn't been to Pima before. Dar and I have, but it was a while ago... maybe 4 or 5 years.

Here's a little about Pima from their website:
Incorporated in the state of Arizona on November 20, 1967, as the Tucson Air Museum, the Arizona Aerospace Foundation is a member-based non-profit foundation, funded by gate admissions, concessions and donations. The Foundation operates the Pima Air & Space Museum and the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in Tucson, Arizona, and the Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita, Arizona.

The Pima Air & Space Museum opened in 1976 and today is the third largest aviation Museum in the world. The Museum is located on 200 acres exhibiting 300 aircraft and 125,000 artifacts. The Museum attracts more than 150,000 visitors annually, and houses its own aircraft restoration shop.
Even though this is desert and one of the best places to store old airplanes to minimize deterioration due to corrosion, time and the elements of nature still take a toll on these old birds as they sit outside, as many of the 300 planes in the collection do. Because of this, some of the best specimens are inside a growing number of hangers, out of the elements and under the protective and watchful eye of a bunch of volunteers, aviation enthusiasts all, who make it a personal mission to preserve these flying machines for future generations.

With so much to see, it was lunch time before we finished the first hanger. After a quick sandwich from the on-site cafe (good but spendy$$) we continued from hanger to hanger and wandering among the outside displays (the really big planes) in between. To provide some sense of the scale of the place, they have three versions of the B-52 bomber on display... one of which is notable as being one of only two planes converted to launch the X-15 rocket plane during the 1950s and early 1960s. (Only people of advanced age, like me, will even know or remember what the X-15 project was. Unless you're one of us, Google "X-15" and check it out.)

Richard Bushong presenting his B-17G. 10 guys, 8 hours, 3,200 gallons of fuel to drop just 10 bombs.
 The highlight of our visit was in the 390th Memorial Museum hanger. This group is dedicated to honoring the courage and sacrifice of the kids (mostly kids they were... late teens, early 20s) of the 390th Bomb Group based in England during WWII... as well as all the men and women who were part of the air war in Europe. The centerpiece of their exhibits is a meticulously refurbished B-17G "Flying Fortress". During our visit one of the docents gave a short presentation. His name is Richard Bushong and he was a B-17 pilot with the 390th who flew 28 missions over Europe during the war. Having someone who was there, who did it, who experienced incredible things, and could relate both humorous and tragic stories was memorable. He has written a book entitled "My Wars" about his time in the Air Force which gives a good insight into those days. It's a quick read and if you run across it at your favorite book seller, pick it up. You'll be glad you did.

If you have any interest in aviation at all, a visit to the Pima Air Museum is a full day affair. We stayed until they almost had to kick us out and drove back to Casa Grande for pizza and a beer. The Titan Missile Museum visit will have to wait for another day.

Feb 20, 2013

Feb 20 - In Casa Grande Arizona

Yesterday we moved from Tucson to Casa Grande... a big driving day of only 78 miles. Because the wind was predicted to really pick up in the afternoon, we did our best to get moving early. We were rolling by 8:30am.

The short drive up I-10 took us up the western side of Tucson and northward toward Phoenix. At Casa Grande, I-8 breaks off I-10 and heads toward Yuma and eventually San Diego. We took I-8 a few miles west of the junction where we took a local road to the SKP RoVers Roost Coop Park. This small park is busy this time of the year and since a few other folks were waiting for full hookup sites we found a perfectly acceptable spot in "boondocking"... a dozen or so spots without any hookups. The good news is that boondocking is only $5 per day. If the days are sunny we can make most of the power we need with our solar panels... by simply making a few adjustments to our energy usage footprint. Since we may only be here until Saturday we're not sure if we'll even take a full hookup site if one becomes available.

After getting set up, we found friends Lynne and Fred, and Julianne and Jimmy. Most of the rest of the day was spent with these folks... getting caught up and telling tall tails that I won't repeat here... to protect the innocent.

Today, Wednesday, we have a rare rainy, cloudy day in southern Arizona. A big storm... the biggest of this winter season so far... is causing all kinds of havoc in the higher elevations to the north, and is predicted to move further east in the next few days intent on continuing it's ill-tempered ways. Doesn't look like we'll make much solar power today.

Feb 17, 2013

Feb 17 - Living Small... a Follow-Up

Based on page-hits and comments, my last post entitled "It Can Be Done" struck a chord with some. And I'm feeling the need to follow on with some additional musings and thoughts.

When it comes to selecting an RV most people start with "big" in mind. What's the largest rig we can afford? We did. But we found that much of the need for space isn't for us or the demands of our travel style... it had more to do with our assumptions about what we needed to live full-time... what other people told us we'd needed... and, well, we've got the space... let's fill 'er up. Other reasons for going BIG might include hobbies, toys, pets, a large waistline, the unstated assumption that bigger is better, and, perhaps, the All-American need to one-up the neighbors... or some combination of all those. You might feel good about why you went big, but I doubt it has anything to do with what works best while traveling and exploring.

If the goal is to take as much of your suburban life along with you when you go camping, and you tend to sit for long periods of time, then go ahead and get as much RV as you can afford. I mean... be happy. You're not hurting anyone.

But if the goal is to explore, to nose around the countryside, to wander, to see, to learn, I think it'll be obvious to most folks with those simpler interests to see the beauty in going small and living simply.. with less.

What's the paradigm you started with.... the big trophy 3000 sq. ft. house that many of us have lived in for long periods of time??... or... the backpack that many have lived out of for long periods of time while traversing the Appalachian Trail or traveling throughout Europe??

In other words, in thinking about life on the road do you start with that big house and try to figure out what you've got to whittle-down and leave out in order to make it all fit into an RV? Or do you start with the backpacker or the one suitcase lean-mode world traveler and try to figure out what few things you can add to make life a little easier or more rewarding?

In thinking and planning for Sabbatical II (the next chapter of our travels) we're focused on keeping things small and simple.

Feb 16, 2013

Feb 16 - It Can be Done.

Fate, (or is it karma... or chance...?) has conspired to connect us with a delightful couple occupying an RV site right across the road from us at the SKP Saguaro RV Park in Benson Arizona. Dean and Carol have been on the road fulltiming in an RV for over 13 years. Like us, they have no fixed house that they call home. What they do have is a collection of kids scattered around the country... from east coast to west coast to Alaska. For the past 11 years they've lived in two different Class B van conversions... their current home being a Sprinter van converted by Sportsmobile.

As we contemplate a smaller and more nimble approach to our lifestyle (what we're calling Sabbatical II), these two came into our lives at a very propitious time. Our nagging doubts and concerns about living in a really small space... with all the compromises that will have to be made... have been an obstacle we've been scaling for some time. And that's why we seek out folks like Dean and Carol... to listen and learn about their experience with a small camper... what they like and don't like... what they've done right and what they'd do differently. Overall, they thoroughly enjoy their life on wheels... a fact that jumps out at you the moment you meet them.

They, like us, are better explorers than sitters. They've driven the Alcan Highway more than a dozen times. They're on the move, exploring and looking for adventure most of the time. In their opinion, the small RV gives them the flexibility... the nimbleness of being able to go almost anywhere whenever they want... with a minimum of hassle. They've made a science out of living simply, without non-essential things, and are always vigilant about creeping complexity. Even after all these years they consider their camper a work-in-process... making small modifications here and there to improve their ability to live comfortably in a small space.

We found them positively inspirational. They prove, to us, that it can be done. Our minds are now clearer... our fears have diminished and excitement and anticipation have grown exponentially.

This year we take our first steps toward a transition to Sabbatical II. For some background, check out my series from a year ago on our thoughts after Five Years.

Feb 15, 2013

Feb 15 - Friends Visiting from the North

Falling way behind blogging again. One of the reasons this happens is that we're too danged busy during the day and by the time we're back in the evening, I'm not motivated to write. That and, like last night... we got back relatively early, but it was so nice outside that I had to soak in the last vestiges of warmth from the setting sun. It's not possible to write on any device with a PC screen in any level of bright light. E-devices are nice, and really can improve productivity... but screen technology still requires hiding from daytime light. And I don't want to sit inside while being outside is one of our main reasons for doing this lifestyle in the first place. End of the daily grumble.

Good friends Jim and Bernie, from our hometown in Wisconsin, are in Arizona for a little mid-winter break from the frozen trauma of the North. We met up with them the last two days. Wednesday we concentrated on the Sabino Canyon area in the Coronado National Forest... hard against the Santa Catalina Mountains on the northeast side of Tucson.

The group chose a 5 mile hike to the Seven Falls in Bear Canyon. It was a fun moderate hike with 7 river crossings (hopping from stone to stone) and 700 feet of elevation gain. The goal was the falls... a series of 7 cascades, that was made more interesting by the recent snow accumulation in the Santa Catalinas which is now melting. With 4 of us each doing 7 river crossings... that's 28 crossings without anyone taking a bath. I think the worst of it was a "foot-soaker" or two.

Ended the day with a darned good meal at a nearby restaurant, Risky Business on Sunrise Blvd.

Then yesterday, Thursday, we met our pale-faced friends at Kartchner Caverns State Park where we spent a good chunk of the day learning about these recently discovered caverns and waiting for our 12:20pm tour of the Throne Room. First found in 1974, there's reason to believe that no man has been inside these caverns before that time. As a result, they are "alive", unmolested, and stunningly beautiful. The two guys who first discovered them and the family who owned the land they're on kept them secret for years. When they realized the size and complexity of the task of keeping the caverns pristine while, at the same time, sharing them with visitors and tourists, they got the State involved. More time passed as the State worked the proposal through the legislature, but in 1988 it all came together and the Park was born. It took more than 10 years more before the Park was dedicated and the facility was ready for the public.

Photography is prohibited inside the caverns but the Park website has more information and some very cool pictures and videos. A handful of our photos from these two days are below, with even more in our online albums.

Feb 7, 2013

Feb 7 - Ghost Town Fairbank Arizona

Today was another nice day... warm sun, light winds... so we thought a nice stroll through a rugged chunk of southern Arizona was in order. With hiking boots laced up, a jug of water hooked on the belt, a wide-brimmed hat on the head, we headed for the historic ghost town of Fairbank Arizona.

Founded in 1881 and located along the banks of the San Pedro River, it was a stop along a stagecoach line and, a little later, the New Mexico and Arizona railroad which was built to service the mining activities in nearby Tombstone. It quickly grew to be a valued transportation and supply hub, eventually serving three separate rail lines. The town had an elegant hotel with a restaurant and bar, a post office, several businesses, and a schoolhouse.

Over it's first few years Fairbank endured floods, an earthquake, and even an infamous attempted train robbery. Even though mining declined significantly during the first half of the 20th century, good old Fairbank struggled on. There was still a countable population of folks into the 1950s but it was slowly dying and by the 1970s only a roadside store remained. In the mid-70s the last residents closed the store and moved away.

Now public land and managed by the BLM, a handful of original wood and adobe buildings remain and Fairbank has become a minor weekend tourist stop for those seeking a view of history and, like us, heading out on trails through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which surrounds it.

The Fairbank Loop Trail we chose was about 4 miles, and we probably added another mile or so with a side trip to the Fairbank Cemetery and another to the ruins of a stamping mill -- a ore processing facility that liberated silver from the crushed ore through the use of mercury. During the heyday, there were 7 of these stamping mills along this stretch of the San Pedro River which processed the ore from more than 50 silver mines in the Tombstone Hills a few miles away.

In the dry Southwest we're used to seeing rivers with absolutely no water in them, especially during this time of the year. But the San Pedro was flowing the day we were there, not a huge flow by any means, but enough to suggest the reason these mills were located here, and why the town thrived for a period.

Feb 6, 2013

Feb 6 - Wintering Birds... Tens of Thousands of Them

Wednesday, Feb. 6, we drove south from Benson, through the tourist trap known as Tombstone, and 4 miles further to the junction with Davis Road. About 20 miles further east on Davis, and two more south on a dirt road, is the entrance to the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. There we found a gravel parking area, a large covered shelter, a few picnic tables, and other expected rustic amenities (i.e. vault toilets). A circular trail is visible from the parking lot which allows closer access to the large shallow natural water ponds that are the big draw to birds and birders alike... particularly, huge numbers of sandhill cranes.

We were tipped-off that this is really something to see, including precision instructions to arrive about 11am. Exiting the car and looking around, I wasn't expecting very much. A few groups of birds were visible, but not enough it seemed to me to create all the fuss we've heard about.

Like your typical snowbird RVers, sandhill cranes live in more northern latitudes during most of the year. This is where they mate, nest, raise their young, and enjoy the riches of the land. The same goes for sandhill cranes. But when the winds of November begin blowing-in chilly arctic air, a natural instinct kicks in and they quickly head south to keep from freezing their cajones off. Those that come to Arizona tend to congregate here in the Whitewater Draw area... drawn by the apparently right combination of factors and needs these birds favor, which I'm guessing include food, natural protection from predators, companionship, and full hookups.

Walking as close to the chattering sandhills as we could, it became clear that the majority of them were just starting to return to the draw from their morning feeding. Binoculars brought into focus clouds of them, as far as it was possible to see... tens of thousands of them, without exaggeration... chattering and calling to each other with their deep, rolling, rattling, trumpeting call... loud enough to drown out a couple nearby snowbirds debating which of their pickup trucks got the best miles per gallon. It really was something to experience.

The experts tell us sandhills love shallow standing water as it provides night-time protection from predators. And about two-thirds of all the sandhills in Arizona make Whitewater Draw their winter home.

We're getting close to the time these birds typically start their migration back to the north. The sandhills will soon be doing the same. We consider ourselves fortunate to have seen all these birds during our visit to Whitewater Draw.

While doing research for this post I did find a set of definitions I'd like to share... for educational purposes, of course:
Ornithology is the study of feathered birds

Ornery-thology is the study of human snowbirds
Of course, more photos from our travels and explorations are always available in our online albums.


Feb 4, 2013

Feb 4 - A Lifetime for 10 Bucks

Around this time of the year, every year, one of the intrepid explorers who resides in the bus-house has a birthday. But this year was different than every prior year.

This year that person has attained geezer-hood, is now an official senior citizen, an old-timer. And to prove it, the National Park Service -- an official agency of the United States Government, took time out of a busy schedule to honor this individual with a brand spanking new Inter-agency Senior Pass. This hunk of plastic, when offered in combination with a government issued photo i.d., will allow this old-timer, and a car-full of others, access to most facilities managed by the National Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Corps of Engineers. In addition to covering most admission fees it usually cuts the price of camping in half. That's right... a 50% discount!! (Where's my danged senior citizen discount??). I mean... how good a gift is that?

But two things concern me. First, I fear spending cuts, facility closures, and rule changes may decrease the value of the pass as we move into the future... to the point where it could become more valuable as an windshield ice scraper. And second, the government, for all the flack they take about mismanaging our resources and wasteful spending, does have some smart people who know about statistics, actuarial tables, and whatnot... and know what they're doing when they create programs like this. If they're willing to offer a LIFETIME pass for only 10 bucks... well, I'm a little concerned about what they know and what I don't know. If it sounds too good to be true... maybe it is??

Weak attempts at levity aside, there's at least one old geezer who's pretty darned happy this week.

Feb 2, 2013

Feb 2 - Deming to Benson

We had talked about possibly staying in Deming another day or two, but found ourselves motivated to move on today, Saturday the 2nd. But we vowed to return to the Deming area to explore further another time.

Today's drive was short (175 miles) and on I-10 all the way. Destination was the SKP Saguaro Coop RV Park in Benson Arizona. We arrived about 2pm. As with all SKP Coop parks, they take no reservations and fill available spaces as guests arrive. This park is having their big annual meeting of all the members later this week and we had some concern that a parking spot might not be available. But, alas, there was no reason for concern. We got a site and settled in for a week, maybe two week, stay.

Feb 1, 2013

Feb 1 - City of Rocks and Native Grafiti

Before heading out on our exploration of the Deming area today we stopped to talk with the manager and fellow camper here at the SKP Dream Catcher RV Park, for a little guidance. We decided that two venues north of Deming sounded interesting... the City of Rocks State Park and a "not-widely-known" collection of native petroglyphs on a chunk of public land.

The City of Rocks State Park is about 30 miles north of Deming... US-180 north to NM-61, then 4 miles northeast to the Park entrance. What we found is a fascinating collection of huge weathered rocks, many standing monoliths, some 40 or more feet high, like a jumbled disorganized Stonehenge. The result of volcanic activity a few years ago (35 million or so), it's an example of nature at work and the variety of what can be produced by natural processes. We walked among the rocks, scrambled to the top of some, tried to get lost in this forest of stone.

That's a campsite there by the tree and picnic table. Might be a problem getting the bus-house
in there.
 There's a campground here too... actually two. One is a more or less a typical RV park-like area where there are 10 sites with varying levels of hook-ups available. Then there are about 40 sites scattered off a loop road that encircles the rock formations. Many of these sites are tucked into the rocks and offer no amenities at all... but are far more interesting and offer a better camping experience than the RV park... as long as you can get by without power. While some of these might work for the big old bus-house, leveling could be a problem and they're really more appropriate for small rigs or tent campers. We agreed we must come back here during our next phase (Sabbatical II) with our down-sized rig.

Heading back toward Deming on US-180, we took a turn to the east on NM-26. At mile marker 5, Green Leaf Mine Road goes off to the north. We took that road. For the most part, this is a two-track single lane dirt road that we were informed would probably pose no problem for our low-clearance front-wheel-drive toad. The information we had was that about 6 or so miles down this road (actually turned out to be almost 10 miles), over a number of berms, a dam, some cattle-guards (zit-zits), an abandoned mine site, and around several blind curves we'd find a primitive parking area next to a hilly outcropping of rocks. Up in those rocks, somewhere, (this is where our information got sketchy), there is a collection of Indian petroglyphs... native graffiti. Our job... find it.

Into the hills we scrambled, tracking what seemed to be various trails or paths that wove among the rocks. There are no signs to guide the search, we simply had to look... which actually added to the experience. We decided to split up and double our efforts, Dar taking one section of rocky hill and me another. But the Indian art revealed itself slowly. You search... and think you see something. But is it man-made or a natural coloration of the rock? Not sure. Suddenly, you see a small one... unmistakable. Then another... and another. Then dozens of them... almost everywhere we looked on that particular part of the hill.

We took dozens of photos and savored the success of our exploration. I can't really add anything about their age, or who might have done them. As usual, my skepticism leads me to think it's possible these objects may not even be what we're led to believe they are. In a few cases we could identify more recent scratchings in the rocks ("Biff loves Betsy 1978") alongside a typical image of a big horn sheep, a circular set of dots, or the image of a bird. Regardless, we found what we set out to find.

By this time it was getting woefully close to "chillin' hour" and we had already scoped out a small local brewpub in downtown Deming (Mimbres Valley Brewing Company) where we might enjoy dinner out tonight. As is our m.o., we took a seat at the bar, ordered a craft beer and a burger apiece, and struck up conversations with some interesting locals who really added to our Deming experience.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: You can find history, adventure, a story... almost anywhere you go... as long as you ask and are willing to search it out.

More pics in our online album soon.

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...