Monday, April 30, 2012

White Sands National Monument

One thing we learned early in our RVing travels was to have a plan B in effect or be ready to make a plan B.  These past few days were a good example of that.  We had planned on going to the White Sands National Monument for another visit.  We've been there three times in the past and have always enjoyed our time there.

The Monument is located right in the middle of the White Sands missile range and they had scheduled test firing of missiles a couple days ago.  They close down RT 70 when this happens and no traffic can go through.  To bypass this highway would entail a drive of well over 150 miles.  So much for that visit.

However, we took a lot of pictures the last time we were there and I thought I'd blog about them.  The entrance to the park is 50 miles east of Las Cruces via RT 70.  As you leave Las Cruces there is a long uphill and downhill grade that some RVs have trouble handling.  Our MH takes the uphill in stride and I use the transmission gears to help slow down on the descent side.  No real problem with a car since it is a good 4 lane highway to the park.

You can't miss the entrance to the park since it is the only building for miles around.  They have a nice visito'rs center with the usual souvenirs available for sale.  Make sure you take a lot of water with you on your visit if you go.  The moisture will be sucked right out of your body.

White Sands National Monument entrance

While the area is called white sands, the material is really gypsum covering 275 square miles of the desert.  It is so white that it easily passes for snow, until you feel the heat off the sands.

No, it isn't snow.

They have areas where you can walk out in the sands to check the plant life and wildlife living there.  One large area has a really nice boardwalk to make the viewing and walking a lot easier.

Boardwalk viewing area
 The dunes are forever shifting around and it must be a full time job to keep the roads open.  It looks like they use a snowplow to keep the road open.

 Some of the dunes are very steep and people bring trash can lids, cardboard boxes and snow sleds to slide down them.  This group of kids had a ramp at the top and were jumping down the almost vertical side of the dune.  I wanted to join them, but the nearest rescue squad was miles away. 

This looks like a lot of fun.
If you can deal with the heat and wind, they have a picnic area out in the middle of the dunes.  I wouldn't want to try and eat there on a windy day.  That sand would blast the skin right off of you.

Picnic area with shelters and toilets.

 If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend you take the time to visit the White Sands National Monument.  Just check ahead to make sure they don't fire a missile at you.

Our daughter Barbara was born in Washington, DC and spent the first 23 years of her life living in the area.  Then she got married and they moved south and then further south.  Her tastes in vehicles has changed over the years from sporty cars to pickup trucks.  Now she has taken it one step further and has taken to riding our grandsons new lawnmower.  Really makes a father proud to see how his children have turned out.  She even got dressed up to cut the grass.

Sorry Barbara, the devil made me do it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mesilla, New Mexico

We got a nice phone call from our daughter Barbara and her hubby Henry today.  They had just returned from a week in Jamaica at a very nice resort down there.  They have traveled to Mexico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica and rated the trips in that order.  They said the service was the worst in Jamaica and best in Mexico.  

We wound up chatting for over an hour and got caught up on a lot of things going on in their lives.  They have very busy lives and keep on the go all the time.  

In 1846, President Polk declared war on Mexico and sent troops to New Mexico and California under General Kearny. This began the military era in New Mexico, which lasted for about 50 years. At this time, Mexican troops were garrisoned in Mesilla. By 1848 the war had ended and most of the state had been ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 

the Gadsden Purchase

According to the treaty, the boundary between the United States and Mexico was to extend from the Gulf of Mexico and follow the Rio Grande to a point eight miles north of El Paso and then continue west to the first branch of the Gila River. The boundary was established from a map drawn by J. Disturnell of New York. When the United States sent men to survey the boundary, they found that the Disturnell map was in error. El Paso was actually located 40 miles north of its position on the map and the Rio Grande was actually 130 miles to the west. A settlement was made between the two countries known as the Gadsden Purchase, but diplomatic tension followed.  In 1853, the United States negotiated with Mexico to resolve the boundary dispute which resulted at the termination of the Mexican War and to purchase the land in question. This was known as the Gadsden Purchase. The treaty was consummated by the raising of the United States flag in the Mesilla Plaza by Fort Fillmore troops. With the protection afforded by the forts in the Southwest, north-south and east-west traffic along the trails increased and Mesilla found itself in an optimum location for economic growth. It became an important stop on two stagecoach, mail and trade routes-- the El Camino Real, which reached from Chihuahua to Santa Fe and the Butterfield stage route, which extended from San Antonio to San Diego. The Butterfield Stage Stop was located east of the Mesilla Plaza, between Calle de Guadalupe and Calle de Principal.

Gerry and I are camped right next to Mesilla and have been there a number of times enjoying the old homes, church and shops.  It has a lot of history as stated above and also in later years Billy The Kid and other outlaws hung out there.  There are a number of nice restaurants, bars and wine tasting shops in the area and overall the place has a lot of charm.

The shop below had a ton of interesting things for sale and we would have liked to go in the shop, but they were closed.  The whole area is touristy and we were surprised so many of the shops were closed on Sunday.

This is a winery and wine tasting place just off the town square.  The architecture was very neat and reminded us of Antigua, Guatemala.  Very plain on the outside and beautiful inside.  We hope to return on Monday for a wine tasting if the price is reasonable.  Many places charge $15 for a tasting and that doesn't make any sense to us.  It's their product and we don't feel it is right to pay them to taste and help sell it. 

These are two shops on the town square and are really neatly restored.  We tried to out wait the person parked in the car in the right, but he wasn't in any hurry to move out of his illegal parking space.

This house was just off the square and had the prettiest flowers and gate to their property.  Inside was a huge palm tree that dominated the interior courtyard.

We drove through the town and turned around when we got to the first field of onions.  They looked like they were just about ready to be harvested.  The tops were quite green, so I guess it will be a couple weeks before picking.

There was a gated community with huge homes already completed and many vacant lots.  One house had really neat statues of an Indian and a cowboy just outside the entrance.  The entrance door was large enough to drive a car through with space to spare.   Rich or poor, it is nice to have money.

Our morning started off nicely enough until our water hose broke. The water pressure here is so strong that water hoses don't have a chance unless you have a pressure valve on them.  I had turned the water on very little and even that wasn't enough to keep from bursting the hose.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

On the road early (almost)

We got up early today and were ready to go before 9am.  Almost!
We've been having problems with our living room slide not coming in very fast and jerky at times.  I always figured I would buy a new slide motor and install it while we were at CCRV.  Another of those chores that never got started or finished.

Today was the day of reckoning for the slide motor.  It gave up the ghost and for the longest time we couldn't get the slide in.  After a number of tries we succeeded in bringing it in.  Rather than take a chance on it breaking down while we were on the road, I called Lazydays RV and they had a motor in stock and could get us in.  Off we went to Lazydays and got in line to have the slide motor replaced.  They finished up around 2pm and we hit the road for Las Cruces.   We did make an $800 contribution to the owners of Lazydays, but we were happy to have it repaired and on the road.

266 miles later we pulled into the Siesta RV Resort in Las Cruces.  We always stop here when we are in the area and like the owners.  They are a nice couple and always take good care of us.  (UPDATE ... The man who owns the park told me this morning that his wife died April 14.  She had an aneurysm and passed away in her sleep.  No advance warning.  She was 54 years old and looked very healthy and trim.)  The other choice was a KOA or Hacienda RV Resort ( +$50/day ).  Not sure of KOA prices but they are usually higher, so Siesta RV Resort was our choice.

Large Road Runner near Las Cruces, NM

We are settled in and watching tv and surfing the net.   Life is good.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Things are looking up

Today was my last appointment at the eye doctor.  There was a little mixup since the doctor who examined me said I should come back in two weeks and get the stitches removed.  What?  When I told him we were leaving on Saturday he said I could wait until November to get them removed.  I continued to question him and he finally checked my chart and asked when the procedure had taken place.  Two weeks ago said I...  Ooops.  He had misread the date and immediately removed the stitches.  Now I am good to go.

Since my luck was running so good we decided to head for the Desert Diamond Casino for a little gambling.  I got a parking spot in the first row right in front of the entrance.  So far, so good.  I put $3 in a 2 cent machine and played for quite a while and finally lost it all.  Later I put $20 into another machine and wound up winning $23.  Broke even so I am happy.

Gerry wasn't as fortunate and left behind a few dollars for the local Indian tribe.  She did have a good time and was ahead for a long time and then started loosing her money slowly but steadily.  She likes to win, but enjoys playing the slots even though she isn't winning.  I play to win and if I'm not winning, then it isn't fun.

We drove by the Pima Air Museum on the way home and Gerry snapped off a few photos of the planes outside.  They must have at least a hundred old planes from WWII fighters and bombers up to fairly recent planes.  They have 3-4 Air Force One planes used by previous US Presidents and you can tour one of them.  We didn't go through the museum because it was getting late, but if we come back next season, we will tour the place again.

The next stop on our journey today was to the local Fry's grocery store for a few things.  Gerry ran in and I guarded the car as usual.  While I was sitting there I got to thinking about all those emails with pictures of people in Wal Mart.  Way out stuff.  Then, much to my surprise a Wal Mart shopper appeared in front of me in the parking lot.  I tried to tell him it wasn't Wal Mart, but he couldn't hear me because of all the loud music.  Times are a changin'!!

He just hiked up his pants to go in store.

That was our day, how was yours?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Montgomery's & Guadalajara Grill

Yesterday we had a few jobs around the motorhome and some errands to run in to get ready to leave here on Saturday morning.  I have been watching the weather forecasts along our planned route and it looks like we can keep just ahead of bad weather.  Nothing serious out there, but we like to avoid the thunderstorms in West Texas.  They can be brutal like the one we went through last year.

We went to Montgomery's Bar & Grill last night and had a good time.  We like to go during happy hour and take advantage of cheaper drinks.  Not cheap drinks, but cheaper.  Gerry had a nice shrimp cocktail and I had my favorite sandwich there, a Philly Cheese Steak.  I was a little surprised to see so many onions on the sandwich.  At least they were easy to pull off the sandwich.

After dinner we stopped by Dairy Queen for the special of the month.  The Peanut Buster parfait was the special and it was huge.  We couldn't eat all of it in one serving and put half of it in the freezer.  It made for a nice late night snack.

Today was more work done on the motorhome and getting ready to hit the road.  It seems like there are a lot of small details to fix even though we have been sitting still for about 5 months.  Nothing major, but they all add up.

We went to Guadalajara Cafe for dinner this evening.  We like to get there early and get a seat before the mob shows up.  They weren't so busy tonight, so we could have arrived later, but we got seated quickly and the drinks came in fast.  We usually order from the appetizer menu since the meals are so large and we can't finish the regular meals.  

They have a nice feature there in that they make salsa right at your table to your order.  We got the medium salsa tonight and it bordered on being too hot for me.  I did step up and eat my share and part of Gerry's share also.  We hung around to hear the Mariachi band play some tunes and then headed back to the motorhome.

The temps have dropped a little, but it still was hot out there today.  Most of the jobs were in the shade of the motorhome, so that was great.  They are calling for rain tonight after midnight and some more in the morning.  That will be a welcome relief.

Ron K went up to Show Low on Monday morning and all our friends have deserted us.  We hope Ron & Dee have a great summer and enjoy the great Show Low summer weather.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

From 102 to 72 Mt Lemmon & Summerhaven

Gerry and I are working on our bucket list before leaving Tucson next Saturday.  We decided that a drive up to Mt. Lemmon and Summerhaven would make sense today.  The temperature was 102 degrees and no wind, so that helped in the decision making process.  Summerhaven is 8,000 + feet up and a lot cooler.  It was 72 degrees when we got to the top around 3pm.  In addition, there were still patches of snow on the hillside at the ski run on the top of the mountain.  

The ride up is beautiful and takes you from the desert to mountain forests of pine trees.  They say you go through the equivalent of driving from Tucson to Canada with the climate and topography changes in about 40 miles.  We are at 3200 ft and exceeded 8,000 ft at the top.  This is a view from the beginning of the trip.
Looking back toward East Tucson
We managed to pick up one geocache today, but it was so hot that we picked an easy one and made quick work of it.  No, that isn't me on top of that rock formation.  There were 3-4 climbers in the area on the other side of the rock.

Rock Climbers

Unusual rock formation


 Summerhaven is on top of Mt. Lemmon and is a popular summer residence for Tucsonians.  A few years ago a huge fire went through the area and burned the forest around the town and some homes as well.  It looks terrible up there with all the burnt trees still standing and no new growth evident. The town is still active with restaurants and new homes.

Summerhaven, AZ

Gerry decided to run across a busy road and stand on a 1ft wide shoulder of the road next to a guard rail to get this nice shot of an arch.  You don't see many arches along this road, but she felt the risk was worth it.  What a wild and crazy girl she is.  Love it.

Roadside Arch

We took over 100 photos today and it was difficult cutting it down to a manageable size to put on the blog.  The rock formations there are great with huge boulders perched on top of each other.  I wonder how many years they have been standing like that?

Check the size of this formation with car below.

You didn't think I could make a posting without a beautiful staghorn cactus in full bloom.  This one had multiple colors and stood about 7 ft tall.  

Staghorn Cactus

Gerry and I were discussing the Pima County Fair that is going on this week and decided we would like to have the water concession.  A nice mister would be valuable to go with the water.  With temps over 100 and humidity around 9%, we figured the water would sell itself.  This evening the TV news reporter stated that indeed the water concession was going great guns and the misting machine was very popular.  They interviewed a number of people and the universal answer was:  " this IS Tucson; it get's hot here ".  Well said.

It is still around 85 degrees outside at 11pm and cooling down slowly.  The weather forecasters say it will be cooler on Monday with temps only 99 degrees.  ONLY!  Ye Gads.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Time to leave Tucson

When I was in the US Foreign Service the last few weeks at post were always the most difficult.  New people would be coming to post and we didn't really want to meet them and leave a few weeks later.  It was also time to clean out the refrigerator and freezer.  We learned very quickly to prepare meal lists a couple months in advance and draw down on the frozen foods.  Even doing that we never could fully eat all the food.  We had houseboys and guards who were more than willing to take what ever we gave them.  They all ate good for a few days, but didn't have refrigerators and had to use the food fast.

Treichville, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

The above is a long winded ramble that leads into us getting ready to leave Tucson next Saturday morning.  Our time is up here and it's time to move on back east.  We may stay an extra day to go to one last potluck dinner at the clubhouse, but that is iffy.  There are some little chores that have to be done to the motor home before we leave like check air pressure in tires, oil the hitch, check fluids in motor home and the usual things to check on the car.

I had intended to do some of the maintenance work today, but the temps got up around 102 degrees and it was too hot to work outside.  Sunday's forecast is for 100 also, so it looks like Monday will be a busy day with the temps only in the mid 90s.  Cooling period ahead.  Wow!

100° | 64°
95° | 61°
91° | 63°
93° | 63°
90° | 55°
Clear. High of 100F. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday Night
Clear. Low of 64F. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 10 mph.

We have a few restaurants left to visit to before we leave and have a last meal at them.  Last meal for the season that is.  The Guadalajara Cafe is high on our list of places to visit and Montgomery's Bar & Grill is another one of my favorites.  Maybe another chance to get the free pie at the Village Inn will be added to the schedule.

I read a number of blogs and many of the snowbirds have arrived back at their homes up north or they are on the way back.  It is interesting to see how the flavor and subjects of the blogs change as they get back to a more normal life.  Walking the pet and mowing the lawn seem to be very important tasks that have to be taken care of.  We don't have a pet and I hate mowing the lawn, so that won't occupy my time when we arrive in Maryland for the summer.

My summer may be taken up with a knee replacement if we can get it scheduled and still do all the things we want to do this year.  Nothing is definite, but a call to the doctor back there so we can get the preliminary steps in process.  I must admit this isn't something I am looking forward to, but we want to continue to travel and with my gimpy knees it limits what we can do.  Time will tell.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Saguaro Cactus Flower & Others

We had to run some errands today in the Green Valley area south of Tucson.  We like to take a back road called Sahuarita Rd to avoid driving in the Tucson traffic.  There are large segments along the side of the road that are covered in prickly pear cactus plants and they were in full bloom today.  

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Please forgive the barb wire in the photos.  It was 98 degrees and the side of the road was covered in cactus plants, so it wouldn't have been good to walk in the area.

Further down the road are some Saguaro Cactus plants and they were in bloom today.  It is the first time we have seen this many blooms on the Saguaros since we usually have left the area before now. 

The night blooming white and yellow flowers appear April through June and the sweet, ruby-colored fruit matures by late June. Saguaro flowers are self incompatible thus require cross pollination. Large quantities of pollen are required for complete pollination as there are numerous ovules. A well-pollinated fruit will contain several thousand tiny seeds.
The major pollinators are bats, primarily the lesser long-nosed bat, feeding on the nectar from the night-blooming flowers, which often remain open in the morning. There are a number of floral characteristics geared toward bat pollination: nocturnal opening of the flowers, nocturnal maturation of pollen, very rich nectar, position high above the ground, durable blooms that can withstand a bat's weight, and fragrance emitted at night. One additional piece of evidence is that the amino acids in the pollen appear to help sustain lactation in bats. The flowers remain open into the daylight hours and continue to produce nectar after sunrise. Doves and bees appear to be the primary daytime pollinators.

Saguaro cactus in bloom

Saguaro cactus flowers

Saguaro Flower

A little way down the road from the cactus above is a beautiful Crown Saguaro cactus and must be over 130 years old.  It is great to see these old giants that were around when Bat Masterson and the Earp brothers were in the area.  I wonder if it had a crown then?
 The Santa Rita mountains are in the background.

Crested Saguaro Cactus
We had a late lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and really enjoyed the spring rolls and sauce.  They were closing early so we just had a couple appetizers and had a light lunch.  We finished our errands and returned to the coolness of the motor home and a couple cold drinks.  Life is good.

Reader Jerry reminded me about the flowers blooming at night.  I had forgotten to include that info and have added it now.  Thanks, Jerry.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Crown & Ocotillo

Today was the big day for Gerry getting her new crown at the dentist.  She had a 1pm appointment and we expected it to last about 4 hours.  The dentist said no, it would take 2 hours at most.  WOW!  They had to prepare the tooth, make a crown mold, create the crown and place it on the tooth.  They did all that in less than two hours and she was out of there.  No pain and she was able to eat dinner a couple hours later.  Unbelievable!  

When they worked on my eyes, the nurse took my temperature by waving a wand like device across my forehead.  It took about a second to take the temp and record it.  It looks like the "beam me up Scotty" stage of evolution is about to appear for real.  It is truly amazing to see the strides they have made in medicine in my lifetime.  I wonder how much of this leap forward has originated in the US, rather than Europe or anywhere else?  Is all this research and progress going to come to a halt with the way American healthcare might be going?

The ocotillo plant looks like dead branches for most of the year and only turns green when there is enough rain.  This is the time of the year for blooms and the flowers are great.  We toured the Saguaro Nat'l Park yesterday and saw a lot of pretty ocotillo plants, but the one in the mediam strip at our RV park is one of the prettiest ones we have ever seen.  It is right behind our RV and there to see all the time. 

Wednesday is free pie day at the Village Inn and we try to get up there whenever possible.  Tonight was such a case.  Gerry, Ron K and I went there for dinner and all had the same meal.  It was a double header for Ron K since he went there for breakfast.  I guess he must like the pie.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Saguaro National Park

One of our favorite places to visit in the Tucson area is Saguaro Nat'l Park East.  There is an 8 mile drive through the desert and the beautiful saguaro cacti.  Since we've had a little rain lately, we thought we'd check out the park today and see if there were many flowers.  Evidently there hasn't been enough rain since the flowers were fewer than in past years, however those that were there were beautiful.  

Buds on top of Saguaro Cactus

Gambrils Quail

Ocotillo flower

Crown Saguaro Cactus

Wild deer in park
Pretty setting for flower
 We also saw a number of different birds, large and small rabbits, chipmunks and other wildlife, including some on bicycles flying down the road.

The temperature has started rising and it was in the low 90s today.  They are calling for triple digits on Sunday and high 90s after that.  It is time to get out of Dodge.   We hope to be on the road by April 29 and heading east.  We'll see how that goes.