Saturday, November 29, 2008

Desert Trails Rv Park:

Tucson AZ

Heading on down the road, I’ve left Mesa Az and one of those truly snowbird communities. I didn’t really feel I fit in there, as these folks only travel from their northern home to their winter residence. Definitely not travelers like myself.

After filling a tire with air that has been getting low lately, I ended up having to stop at a rest stop half way to Tucson. After realizing it was the valve stem, I removed the tire and headed to a tire shop to have the valve replaced. Oddly this is the second valve stem that has developed a tear in it and needed replacing within the past month. A fellow Rv’er at the rest stop told me that their was a recent recall on 6 million valve stems made in China. I apparently got two of them. The other possibility is that I had rodents chew on the valve stems and they created the tear. Rodents are a big problem out here. They like to chew on the wires on your vehicle. People do everything to try to stop them, from making mixtures of red pepper and pasting it on the wires or using things like dryer sheets and wrapping them around the wires. Rodents hate the chemicals in dryer sheets.

I finally made it to my winter destination (a two hour trip that turned into 4 hours) The Desert Trails Rv Park. It’s about 10 mile west of Tucson. After checking in and setting up on my site for the winter, I started to explore my home in the desert. The park is heavily landscaped with desert plants. Saguaro cactus those tall cactus with arms that reach up to the sky, some are almost 200 years old. Birds are making nests in the holes high up in the cactus. The saguaro don’t grow arms until they are about 75 years old. Lots of other vegetation including a wall of oleanders making me think of my beautiful Florida.

The park at first glance looks old and a bit run down. More like an old western town. Lots of old buildings mostly painted brown to blend into the landscape. Behind my campsite are all these covered picnic areas. Looks like a great place to relax in some shade around the fish ponds. But on closer inspection, it looks like the concrete ponds were once shallow swimming/wading areas as there are a number of old weathered life guard stands around them. Water spouting into the ponds.

As I turn a corner, I see what looks like a half buried Aztec ruin. How intriguing. I begin to realize this used to be a water park. Walking further around a hill, I see what’s left of the water slide attraction and many of the swimming pools have been filled in with sand.

It’s like I’ve arrived at a quirky park that was given up on, forgotten and overgrown with vegetation.

Later I find out the water park was the income for the summer months and the Rv resort took care of the winter months. Quite a unique concept. The owners finally gave up on the water park about two years ago, deciding they’d rather enjoy the adult Rv’ers than have to deal with the kids all summer long. Besides the water park was getting pretty run down and would have required tons of work to keep it up. It’s all mixed up together. Some campsites are on the edge of abandoned pools with sloping concrete edges leading into a now sandy bottom. The water long since removed.

I love it!. It quirky, odd ball and the Rv park itself is all mixed in with these unusual buildings and water park structures. None of the rows and rows of Rv’s next to each other like most parks. The roads wind in and around the cactus gardens, old buildings and remains of the water park, there are only a few areas where the Rv’s are actually lined up in a row.

See photo’s at:

On the other side of the oleander bushes, there’s a horse boarding ranch from what I can tell. I’m in the country, miles of hiking trails back up to the park and I’m not too close to the city. Chickens run out from under the oleanders and I saw two cute puppies peak out today.

I attended the Monday morning greeting for coffee and donuts to discover the rec. hall completely filled. Not a single seat remaining. One of the owners, Pericles, ran down all the events coming up, welcomed all us new winter residences and pretty much had a humorous monologue going for over an hour. Because there were so many people there and I getting there after the meeting was about to start, I didn’t get a chance to actually meet or talk to anyone. Not a good start for me, but then again it’s only my third day in the park.

I’ve joined a creative writing class today. It’s a group of about 8-10 writers. Some are writing stories about their families, poetry as well as Haiku. We each read something we’ve done and get feedback from the other members. It’s a great support group and I think I’ll fit in well. They all have a great sense of sharing. When I read one of my travel reports, they all gave me a thumbs up on my descriptions of places I’ve visited. I may try my hand at a bit of poetry or Haiku as well and of course I’ll share it with you.

Thanksgiving was great and I hope yours was as well. Over 100 filled the Rec. Hall for good food and conversation. The following day, it’s a pizza party in the park with live music at Noon. And it’s right behind my camper, so I don’t have far to go. Yum. You haven’t lived till you’ve heard “Proud Mary” played by a three piece band. Drums, Tuba and Accordion. What a hoot. Their best song though was the Beer Barrel Polka.

Desert Trails has tons of activities for me to get into so I think I’m going to be very busy this winter season. I’ll keep you posted occasionally throughout the winter and let you know what I’m up to. Have a great winter. It’s been fun sharing my experiences with you this past year.
As always, I’d love to hear from you when ever you have a chance to write.

Till the next big adventure begins, enjoy life, explore and learn something new each day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

33-08 Mesa Arizona

Mesa Arizona

How exciting to be back out on the road. But before I head out, I stopped by to have my eyes checked and the doctor gave me a positive report. My eyes are a stable 13 pressure. Each person is different, but the Dr. was pleased with my progress with the new eye drops.

Note for campers: Be sure to protect you medications especially if they have a temperature sensitive range. One of my eye drops has a range of 56-77 degrees. Very hard to maintain in a camper.

Note: Remember, you can view any of the pictures in the blog fullsize by clicking on the picture.

But enough of that. Excitement is in the air as I hook up the camper and head south to Phoenix and Mesa Arizona. I’ve become addicted to being on the road. It’s about a two and a half hour drive for me, not much I know, but just getting the camper out on the road again is enough for me.

You would be proud of me as my Chevy diesel truck smoothly passed semi-trucks and fellow Rv’ers (pulled by a Dodge truck) going over the mountain range. I couldn’t be happier with the way the Chevy handles.

As I descend into the Phoenix valley, I’ve dropped a couple thousand feet and we’re back at about sea level. Smog fills the valley around the city proper but is less out east of town in Mesa where I’ll be staying for a week. Traffic isn’t too bad on the major highways leading through the city, as big planes fly low over the ribbons of concrete heading to the airport in what looks like the center of town. The roads are now monitored by electronic cameras that will give $250 tickets to speeders.

The suburbs spread out from Phoenix in all directions across the flat valley floor. Dry bare brown mountain ranges circle the valley. I arrive at my campground the Good Life Rv park. It’s a Passport America park, so I’m getting it for half off for the week. Not the prettiest of parks, most of the camp sites have “park models, over 1,000” crammed into each space available. My camper is snuggled in between them surrounded by concrete and immaculately kept paved streets. Previous owners put down tons of fake green grass carpeting, so my entrance looks nice.

The valleys skyline is dotted with tall Mexican Palms. Hundreds of them line the rows of streets in the park I’m in. The silhouette of palms against the red evening sky is gorgeous. I took a day trip around town and visited an RV sales place checking out 5th wheel campers. Found a few really nice ones I like, but not to worry, I’m not buying anything until the market stabilizes. The dealers are desperate though so if you find one, expect to pay a lot less than a year ago.

The Good Life’s park pool area is large, with two swimming pools heated differently for those who like it cooler or warmer. They even have two in ground hot tubs also at different temps. Lots of shade areas for those of us who can only handle so much sun each day. The water felt good to splash around in for a while. Then relax in the shade and read a good book. Oh, it’s about 84 today, as I see on TV the east coast is getting a cold snap all the way into Florida.

So here I am basically in a community with lots and lots of Park Model homes (miniature mobile homes) and of course the Mexican Palm trees and miles and miles of suburbs. It’s a true flat concrete jungle. One that gets over 95 days a year of three digit temperatures…. That’s 100 degrees plus each year. Yikees and folks live here. Well except for all the folks in the park I’m in and the dozens and dozens of others here in the valley. They’re snowbirds from Canada and Minnesota and have bought their piece of the American dream and it’s warm all winter. Leaving the minute spring arrives.

Needless to say I had to get out in the country so I headed east on Main street towards Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains. Thought I’d check out the Lost Dutchman State Park. Yes this is the area that the Lost Dutchman Mine is… out there somewhere. Lots of good clues, but no one has found it yet. The drive out to Apache Junction was like a slow drive towards Old Arizona. The further I got away from Mesa and Phoenix, the older and sparser the surroundings. Old motel buildings, diners and run down Rv parks. More desert and sand. The palm trees were replaced by the Saguaro cactus, iron Mesquite trees and sage brush. I discovered that the Lost Dutchman State park was basically just a lot of hiking trails up into the Superstitious Mountains and a campground (no electric). So I bee-booped over to the Goldfield Ghost Town. Much of it has been restored/recreated, but it is on the original site of the town. The mine brought in over 4,000 folks, but when the mine flooded, it closed down and everyone left. One of the shop attendants suggested a trip on up the road about another 10 miles to Canyon Lake for a ride on the Dolly Paddle boat.

I was in the mood for driving through the mountains and desert and decided to head towards Canyon Lake. Good luck was on my side, as I got to the boat ramp 10 minutes before the only cruise of the day was to depart. They call the area the little grand canyon and the ride on the boat was really cool. Huge cliff walls, winding canyons, the dam that created the lake and best of all, I got to see a couple Big Horn Sheep climbing along the steep cliff walls. Now how cool is that!

After that, I felt like a million bucks. Now if I could just find that Lost Dutchman mine. The ships captain pointed out the mountain in the shape of a needle and said the mine is within the shadow of the needle. Now how hard could it be to find it?

But alas, my riches have all vanished in the stock market plunge and all that I have left is the richness of my friends. So thanks for being out there good friend.

I head to Tucson in the next day or so and will post another report or two describing my winter residence. Till then…. I’m still traveling the highways and byways…

Saturday, November 8, 2008

32-08 Verde Valley Arizona tour ending

The sun is setting behind the mountain range around 5 PM now. The evening air is 63 and dropping. It’s a dry crisp air. From my campsite, I usually walk over to the dumpster in the next camp loop where it’s usually empty except when a group takes over on the weekends. After dropping off my small bag of garbage, I walk around the silent campsites and look over at the ancient Pueblo, Tuzigoot. It’s easy to get into a contemplative mood and think about the Native Indians who lived up on the hill off in the distance over 1,000 years ago and built that beautiful Pueblo which caps the summit of the hill. I’ve watched it many an evening changing color as the sun turns the adobe bricks red in the setting sun.

Did you know Arizona does not have daylight saving time? It has been so odd not to change my clocks this past week. Either way, I still get up shortly after the sun comes up. Well ok, actually I lay in bed thinking, isn’t it nice not having to get out of bed and go to work. Opps, sorry about that to all my working stiff friends.

I have one more place to explore while in the Verde Valley, AZ. That’s the V bar V Ranch. It’s been cold the last couple of days and nights, but today, Friday, it’s warming up a bit and of course the sun is shining. A perfect day for a hike to the Petroglyphs that are a part of the V - V Ranch. Can you imagine owning a ranch and discovering Petroglyphs on your property. The owners eventually gave the land to the Gov to preserve the site.

I can’t tell you what a gorgeous refreshing day it is. The sun shining, a cool breeze that rattles the tall dry grasses as I walk along the mile long round trip path to the ancient site where Native Indians recorded what they saw. Deer, prong horn antelope, egrets, turtles as well as creating a solar calendar right on the side of the stone walls. The guide told us some of the markings are from very ancient Native Indians possibly going back as far as 10,000 years. Most are from the 800-1,000 year old range.

I talked to the gal at the visitor center and she told me how her and her husband are enjoying volunteering at this site for a couple of months. They are full time campers and usually try to stay in an area for about two to three months at a time. They work 4 days F-M, then the Ranch is closed for 3 days, giving them the run of the place.

I was told about Scared Mountain, about a ¼ of a mile from the Ranch, so I trek on down the red clay dirt road, dust billowing behind me and find the white mountain among all the other red mountains. Pulling off the road, traveling down and around dry washes, over land strewn with small fist sized rocks, I park next to an old fence. This is wilderness. I sort of find the path leading up the Scared Mountain, finally finding the path as it leads me over a dry wash and up the side of the Mountain. The trail is filled with white lime stone and I’m thankful I have on a really good pair of hiking boots. Half way up the mountain is a sign with a sign in sheet. I sign in and continue along the path that winds around the mountain, gradually leading to the summit.

As I get to the top and rest for a couple of minutes, I realize the Native Indians who lived up here had a really great view of the entire surrounding area. This is an unexcavated site where numerous Pueblo buildings once stood. At first all I see are piles of rocks around depressions in the ground. The top of the mountain is covered in small brush and very prickly pear cactus.

As I wonder around the top edge of Scared Mountain, I’m able to see more and more sites. A few are fairly well defined walls. All of their mortar is long since gone. Their roofs collapsed centuries ago. One after another, I see depressions, then more walls. As I look closer, I see bits and pieces of pottery shards everywhere. Some have been placed on rocks by other hikers. Just as many are on the ground.

This is the first site I’ve been to where there has been no attempt to excavate the site. Though I’m sure scavengers, pot hunters, have already searched the area. What a great hike. Alone, listening to the silence, looking out over the vast landscape of rugged desert landscape with an immense blue sky above. And yet thousands of Indians survived for a time out here.

One of the best hikes I’ve had all summer or should I say fall. This is what exploring the wild west is all about.