Saturday, April 25, 2009

10-2009 Panaca to Ely Nevada

Panaca NV

Ely NV

Cathedral Gorge State Park: Campground, $14 per night, no hook-up. Water and dump station available. Super quiet, no car sounds, no trains, not even planes flying overhead.

Prospector Hotel & Gambling Hall: Campground, $16 per night, full hook-ups. Includes a free margarita each day.

Tons of photo's have been uploaded by my Picasa site:
I must start out by apologizing for the abrupt end to last weeks stories. I would usually end my reports a little bit better, but when I found a free wi-fi site in town at Sweets restaurant, I had to rush too get the report out and include some pictures.

Before leaving The Valley of Fire St Pk. I went on a nice hike past white dome monoliths, remains of a movie set and through a slot canyon. What a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Back at the campground, I enjoyed an evening campfire over at Connie and Rick’s campsite. We sat under a blanket of stars with just the inky black outline of the sandstone mountain range silhouetted against the starry moonless sky.

I got up early on Monday morning to pack up and head out to my next destination. I opened all the shades in the camper and what a surprise, I saw three big horned sheep coming across the red sandstone boulders , not more than 20 feet from my camper.
There was no chance of seeing them over the past few days because the campground was so full and so many folks had barking dogs. But on this last day, it was quiet and there they were, just wondering along the edge of the campground. Really made my day.

I headed out along HWY 93 which winds it’s way through the eastern side of the Nevada mountain range, Utah and the Great Basin National Park, the newest of the National parks. I’ll head through it in a couple of days, for now, I had thought I’d already driven through it, as there are some huge basins on the southern end, in the shape of shallow bowls that climb up gradually onto the mountain ranges that encompass the basin. (Later I learned the Great Basin encompasses all of Nevada!) Driving along 93 I saw tons of wild flowers, mostly yellows, whites and oranges. Then as I gradually gained elevation, there were whole fields of bright neon canary yellow flowers. They occasionally lined the sides of the highway and were just brilliant.

The majority of Nevada’s state parks are on the eastern side of the state and for good reason. It’s higher elevation and there are lakes, dams and reservoirs to enjoy as well as the mountain scenery. Nevada has the most mountain ranges of any state in the country.

There are just a ton of things and places to explore out here. I’m sure I’ll have to come back to see all of it. Archeological sites, 5 state parks, wildlife refuge sites, ghost towns, you name it they have lots of stuff to do outdoors. Today I drove over to Pioche, 1869, a silver mining town, dotted with mines throughout the area, it was wilder than Tombstone or Bodie. With more than 70 killings from gunshot wounds before a single person was buried from natural causes. This was definitely a part of the Wild Wild West. There’s still tons of evidence to show it was a mining town and oh, it has three commercial campgrounds right in town, all no more than $15-$16 a night full hook-ups some with cable tv. Two of them are for sale, so if you want to start your own business, check them out.

Headed out on Wednesday for Ely NV along hwy 93. More of the Great Basin Highway. What a unbelievable highway. Running through the Great Basin, each section over 100 miles visible with snow capped mountain ranges surrounding this awesome landscape. The first 30 minutes of driving along the highway, I did not see more than 2 or 3 vehicles. Like having my own private highway. Miles and miles of sagebrush covered range land. Not a single house or man made structure except for the miles of fences along the highway. No houses, barns of any kind and definitely no services along this 117 mile route. The road straight as an arrow, gradually decending into the bowl and then rising eventually on the far end of the valley. Climbing gradually to 7,500 feet, I’m almost horizontal with the snow capped mountains. Wheeler peak is 13,063 feet. It’s a comfortable 65-70 degrees today, expected to get cooler as the week goes on.

I’m able to pull in 12 TV stations from Utah and Nevada, but nothing worth watching is there. Still nice to have it if I want to veg. out and just watch stuff. I’ll be here for a couple of days to waiting to pick up my mail via general delivery at the post office.


I’ve made arrangements to fly back to Fla to get my
drivers license renewed. I’ll fly back to Florida on Sept 3rd and return on Sept 9th. I’m also seriously thinking of making arrangements to take the camper and truck on a ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert Canada on my way back from Alaska.

It’s all so hard to commit to plans so far in advance, but this is one trip that is requiring me to do just that. This will mean that I will not be coming back to Florida for the winter, but instead spend one more winter in Tucson. I know all my new Winter Tucsonans will be glad to hear that. Hopefully I will be able to visit with all my Florida friends this coming Sept.

Back in Ely, I’m enjoying this small western town. This is where everyone
goes fishing, hunting and all those other outdoor sports. Not a single
Wal-Mart, K-mart or other big box store in sight. Only local stores and lots
and lots of hotels and motels, most having their own mini casino attached.
I’d love to go exploring some of the many ghost towns in the area and tried
to get to several in the Humboldt Forest. Got all of 5 miles in on a fairly
good dirt and silt road, but as the road got narrower and higher in
elevation, snow banks still on the mountains, I realized I would need a 4
wheel drive to go much further as the road started to get muddy and
slippery. Darn, yet another thing I’ll have to purchase in the future. Never
knew how much I could use a 4-wheel drive truck.

They have a big train museum here as well as a train ride. My buddy Raul (Ray) would really enjoy spending some time out here. They even provide behind the scenes tours as the mechanics work on the engines and train cars. I was given a private tour of the train station museum with all it’s original telegraph equipment and office equipment. The place is in original condition and a great way to experience a time when trains ruled transportation across the country.

Speaking of transportation, Ely is the location of the final completion of the Lincoln Highway. The original and first highway to go from New York to San Francisco. The Lincoln Highway was the idea of a group of Indiana Automobile Manufacturers as a way to encourage people to buy cars and travel the country. A number of the 3,000 original concrete signs still exist out here. They were put up by the Boy Scouts back in 1928. Cmdr. Eisenhower took a military convoy across the Lincoln highway to prove one could travel the county in vehicles. Of course his convoy took all their own supplies and repair equipment with them. Later as President of the U. S. he would develop the Interstate Highway system.

Final note: IT’S SNOWING OUTSIDE! I went to sleep last night to rain. I woke up this morning to 31 degree weather and snow coming down. Everything is getting all pretty and white outside. It’s cozy warm inside, so I guess I’ll be staying here for a couple of days until it clears up. This is a good test for the camper to see how well it holds up to really cold weather. PS I took in the water hoses etc yesterday in case of a freeze.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

09-2009 Valley of Fire Nevada

Grapevine Canyon (Near Laughlin NV)

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

Campground: Valley of Fire State Park. $10.00 basic plus $14.00 for electric/water hook-ups. Spectacular red rock background for campsites.
About 50 miles outside of Las Vegas NV.

Well I’ve wondered around Bullhead City and Laughlin for the past week. Found out Bullhead City was incorporated into a city in 1986. No wonder both cities look like they just grew up out of the desert and bare mountain ranges in the area. Isn’t it amazing that even though everything is relatively new, that tacky buildings still get built and all the planning and design still can’t change the fact their these homes and businesses are still sitting in the middle of a dry arid desert landscape. The Colorado river being the only break from the bleak scenery.

I won’t say I’ve been bored, but I knew something was missing. Yes they have all the big stores to shop in and the Casinos have all the restaurants and buffets, but I’ve discovered I need more than that to be happy or feel fulfilled. So the other day, I was looking through the list of Points of Interest in the area. There are the boat tours, Davis Dam which one can’t go to unless it’s via water, as it’s off limits after 9-11. Then I saw a listing for Grapevine Canyon.

A perfect morning for an excursion, the temperature is warm and the sky is overcast keeping the sun at bay. I take a circle route across and over the Colorado river onto the Nevada side of the river. Passing those stark tan colored rounded mounds of hills which become a part of Spirit Mountain. I climb the highway up, up, up and eventually turn off at Christmas Tree Pass, onto a dirt road of dusty powdery hard packed sand.

I already feel alive driving out into the country. This is exactly what I needed. Out in the open spaces and back to nature. Two miles up the road and a turn off and I’m at the edge of the canyon. A wide sand bottom wash defines the area leading to the rock outcroppings and the Petroglyphs. Camera in hand, a bottle of water, good hiking boots and I’m off. I follow the trail as it tracks along the top edge of the wash. I can see numerous tracks leading down into the wash and across to the other side, all leading to the rock outcrop on either side of the canyon beyond.

Even from a distance I can make out the Petroglyphs. The sides of the dark vanish covered rocks covered with Indian etchings from top to bottom. Everywhere I look I discover more and more etchings. I climb high up on the side of the mountain where the rocks jut out, covered with lines and hatch marks. Some are boxes, tic tac toe type lines wavy lines, but very few animal prints or human. Oh they are there, but the majority of the Petroglyphs are line symbols. Which gets me to thinking that they must have had something important to say. It’s as if they are feverishly trying to tell a story. But about what. How close were they coming to figuring out how to put their language down in writing? Many of the Petroglyphs overlap each other as if to say, here is even more information for you, or wait, I have another thought to put down. There are just so many etchings everywhere.

The experts don’t believe these are very old, possibly anywhere from 200 to 800 years old. Petroglyphs are hard to date. I can almost feel the feverish urgency of the writings on the walls and rocks of Grapevine canyon. It’s like hearing a foreign language and dying to know what is being said. It always amazes me that a people would end up in such a desolate area. They tell me that a natural spring flows most years except during major droughts. I don’t see any water flowing. I’m sure that’s what attracted these native Indians to the area, but the Colorado is also only a few miles away and like the present day communities, humans are attracted to life giving water.

More mysteries all across our country. I wonder if we will every know what they were trying to convey? And also so accessible. One can walk right up to the Petroglyphs and one could even touch them, of course signs at the parking lot warn against this so as not to destroy the history behind this art form. Neither are they protected in any special way. History exposed and waiting to be seen.

It’s Thursday and it must be moving day. 170 miles and about a 4 hour trip with stops for coffee and lunch along the way as well as some stops for photo ops you know. It always amazes me how long it takes to go such a short distance. This time though, part of the longer time was due to traveling the back roads through Lake Mead National Rec. Area and slow downs numerous times for road construction. You should see my camper after traveling over dirt construction roads, wet down to keep the dust down. The front of the camper looked like it was a real mud collector. Did a quick one bucket wash on the front of the camper and part of the truck to make them look presentable.

One of the great pleasures in life is coffee and although I’m not supposed to have caffeine, I do occasionally indulge. Before heading out on the road, I stopped in a local Firehouse Coffee shop for a Danish and a huge cup of coffee. I was partially good as I had them mix ½ decaf and ½ leaded. But even with that I was able to get that delicious charge from the caffeine, that slightly acidic taste way back on my tongue, then the flavor of the cream on the sides of my mouth…. A hint of sweetness from the sweetener and it all added up to one caffeine induced high… Ahhhhhh.

Life’s little pleasures.

On the south side of Las Vegas is Henderson and as I drove NE though this bedroom community, the edges of town mixed with awesome mountain views and sparkling new Spanish style communities and townhouses hugging the cliffs and hill promontories. Creating almost a European flair on the edges of Lake Las Vegas.

Then it was into the Lake Mead Rec. area. A vast landscape of changing mountain scenery of what seemed like an ever-changing color spectrum. Light to dark tans, browns, ruddy reds and clay colors, each commanding my attention. And to make it even more spectacular, each mountain and hill had it’s own shape, from round, to jagged to whole mountain ranges pushing up in sharp pointed peaks. Some taking on the shapes of hammer head sharks or rocks tipping on the edge of cliffs. The narrow road winding up down and around these spectacular scenes at every turn. Lake Mead coming into view over every crest. Lots of auto commercial are filmed around here.

Finally reaching my destination, The Valley of Fire State Park, outside of Overton NV. I could have stopped in Las Vegas for a few days, but opted for the rugged country on the north end of Lake Mead. And was I lucky, I got the last electric/water site at the campground. Of course I could have used a dry camping site, but it’s nice to have elec. And water when they’re available. The scenery is spectacular with the pinkish red sandstone rock formations. Couldn’t ask for a prettier campsite.

A number of movies have been filmed here including Star Trek. Commercials galore. So in and of itself, that points to the fact this is one awesome place for picture taking and ogling. I’ve already visited a few sites containing more Petroglyphs (over 4,000 years of Indian habitation), petrified wood and “water tanks” These are natural rock hollows where water collects during a rain. They could retain the water for many months and it’s believed the Native Indians knew where they were all located and used them. The small town of Overton has a Lost Pueblo Museum where they tell you about a string of pueblos covering over 30 miles along the mud river area.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

08-2009 Williams to Bullhead City Arizona

Williams AZ
Bullhead City AZ
Laughlin NV
Campground: Canyon Gateway RV Park. $18.50 Passport ½ price campground. Full Hookups w/ cable TV. I’ll be here 3 nights. Tall stark bare trees line the three rows of Rv sites. The ground is covered with coarse red lava rock. Uncomfortable to walk on.

Campground: Snowbird Rv Resort. A Recreation USA and Passport America Park. Cost $14.00 per night. Full hookups. Swimming pool/hot tub (not very hot)

I left Cottonwood heading north on hwy 17 up to Flagstaff and then west on hwy 40. It’s a sunny dry day.
Have I mentioned how dry it is? How about 7% humidity. My friend Dave who’s out in this area as well, mentioned in an email that his skin is cracked and dry. He’s right. I have to use tons of lotion to keep from drying up like a shriveled prune.

I’ve stopped over at Williams AZ which is the gateway to the Grand Canyon. Now I know this will sound terribly unusual, but I’ve decided not to go to the canyon this time. One, I’ve been to the North Rim a couple of years ago, so I’ve seen the grand canyon and second, they’ve raised the entrance fee to $25. Since I know I’ll be back this way many more times, I’ll wait until I can get the Senior Park Pass when I hit that magic age (62) Ekkkk ! I know, it’s only a couple years away.

I’ll explore the area before heading to Bullhead city. The Canyon Gateway Rv park as I mentioned in the description is a really stark looking place, especially with the rough red lava rock on the ground. The owner/manager was not in a good mood when I got here. He complained about not being able to take a single day off because his staff is so incompetent, they can’t take care of the place without him. Wonder how much he pays them…

I’ve gone up in elevation about 3,000 feet to about 6,500 feet. I’ve even seen patches of snow on the north sides of the mountains, all covered in pine trees and the sharp edged Humphreys Peak at 12,600 ft, their tallest mountain in Flagstaff is topped with a thin layer of snow. A perfect picturesque scene any painter would love to paint. The temp. is expected to drop to 29 tonight.

The small town of Williams, once a frontier town is of course a tourist town today. Everyone appears pretty lay back without the usual gotta sell one more T-shirt to the gringo customer. This was the last stretch of Route 66 to be used before being bypassed by Hwy 40. The Grand Canyon Railroad was decommissioned in the 60’s and started to run again in the mid 80’s. The old Hotel made of solid concrete with double pillars running along it’s veranda. It contained one of the “Harvey Girls” Restaurants. When I visited the train station the only part of the hotel that is open is the Train ticket station and the gift shop which is partly in the old main lobby with it’s huge fireplace. I asked one of the clerks about what the rest of the hotel looks like, as it is not open to the public. She told me there are lots of broken windows and graffiti all over the place. The current owners are preparing it to be their corporate offices and business suites. But those plans could change. She also told me that her Grandmothers sister was an original Harvey Girl. If you want to learn more about the history check out:

A note on the train ride to the Grand Canyon. Everyone I’ve spoken to, recommend not taking the train to the Grand Canyon. It’s only a 59 mile trip each way but will take you 5 hours of travel time, leaving you only about an hour to view the canyon. Besides, the train does not travel through much except the Kaibab forest.

I drove over to Kaibab Lake not far from Williams to check out their campground. Surprisingly it had not opened up for the season. It does open May 15 - Oct 1st. This is my last day in the area. It’s been windy over the past day or so and rather chilly. The elevation has a lot to do with that.

Bullhead City:

Well it’s mid week and I’m back on the road again heading towards Bullhead City. It’s on the boarder of AZ, Nevada and Calif. The drive was all downhill (Literally) all the way.
From an elevation of 6,800 ft down to an elevation of 554 ft. The drive was a pleasant surprise, driving along hwy 40, the scenery quickly went from pine forested mountain ranges (Arizona high country) down to large expanses of prairie with scruffy clumps of short dry grasses and desert landscape. Because I was constantly going downhill, the vistas were expansive looking across those rolling landscapes with mountains far off in the distance.
The sky was huge with wispy white clouds against a blue background, some looking like a chain of white anvils running across the sky.

And it’s much warmer in Bullhead City as well. After checking into the Snowbird Rv park, I hopped into the swimming pool for a nice swim.

I’m told this area can get very hot early in the year. Someone at the pool said last May it was already 115 degrees. Yikkees that’s hot. Today, April 9th, it’s a very comfortable 77 degrees.
I was looking through the local paper and saw an add for Big 5 Sporting Goods. They had a couple pairs of Binoculars on sale. Got a dandy of deal on a $150 pair for only $29.00. A great deal on a pair of high quality Binoculars. I’ve never owned a really good pair and these are doozies. Now I’ll be able to see all that wildlife up close.

Drove over to the Ghost Town of Oatman AZ. It’s only about 15 miles from Bullhead City but feels like your hundreds of miles away. It’s surrounded by sharp jagged mountain ranges. The town is relatively small and most of the buildings look like they are barely standing up on their own. Burros roam the town looking for handouts. Carrots are for sale to feed them which the tourists love to do. The burros are ancestors of the ones used in the mines. When the mines ran out of ore, the burros were let loose to fend for themselves.
Route 66 went right through town, one of the many round about routes it took heading for the Calif. Coast. Kind of neat to be able to cross paths with Route 66 so many times over the past couple of years and through one of it‘s most rugged locations to boot.

Over the weekend one of the casinos held a free Blues and Brews concert. Lasted three full days. What a nice way to enjoy a thoroughly perfect sunny, breezy warm Easter Weekend. Thanks Laughlin Nevada. I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

07-2009 Bonus, Kitt Peak Arizona

Just a quick note. Before I left Tucson I visited Kitt Peak, the only National Observatory in the United States. You can go to: to see the rest of the pictures on my picasa site. The daytime tours are very basic. I would suggest just getting the audio tour and walking around on your own. I'm sure the evening programs are very good.
For more info on Kitt Peak, go to: check out the image gallery.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

07-2009 Camp Verde and Cottonwood Arizona

Camp Verde AZ
Cottonwood AZ

Campground: Krazy K Rv park. $18 per night (Passport Discount), full hookups. A clean neat park right off of I-17. They have a nice rec. room including a small work out room with new equipment, swimming pool and hot tub are also all new. Very well maintained.

Campground: Dead Horse Ranch State Park. $19 per night, Elec. And water. I work camped here last fall.

I left Roosevelt Lake. There really isn’t much to do in the nearby area except visiting the pueblo ruins or fishing. I saw lots of fishermen out in their boats on the water, even at sunrise, when it was a chilly 38 degrees. These guys really like to fish.

I could have stayed a day or so in Payson, but decided to drive straight through to Cottonwood. About 120 miles down the road. When I got to Dead Horse State Park, it was all full up. Did I miss a holiday weekend? In any case, I drove back to Camp Verde and got a spot in a commercial park for a couple of days.
When your on the road, minor things happen that have to be taken care of.
This weekend I had the propane tanks filled (I’ve been using a lot of propane to heat the camper at night). After they were filled, one of the connector thingee knobs got damaged and I need to replace it. Next, when I got to the Krazy K Rv park, I was put on a site with 50 amp service. No problem, I’ll just pull out my trusty 50amp to 30 amp cable. Not so fast there buddy boy. As I went to plug it in, I discovered it had a burned out prong. Hmmm, who did I last lone it too? Things happen and one simply puts it on a quick list of things to fix.

I’m about a mile away from Montezuma’s Castle so of course I stopped by to see it again. I’ve reported on it in the past and you can do a search on the Blog (upper left hand corner) to read what I wrote the last time. It’s a beautifully preserved cliff dwelling. The Cliff Palace Casino is real close too, so I dropped in and made a whole $17. Luck was with me today.

A few days later and I went in for my Eye exam for Glaucoma back in Cottonwood. My pressure number is 14 and the Dr. Martin is happy with that, so I’m good to go. For those interested, I have Gov. BC/BS and never have a problem going to a Dr’s office across the country. If I have a minor emergency, I head right to a 24 hr clinic. I pay the same co-payment I would in Fla. and I’m on my way. I now keep my own records of Dr’s visits and bring those with me when going to the Dr’s office.

I met up with a couple of the camp host workers at Dead Horse Ranch State park, Bill W and John H. We had a few cocktails, dinner and great conversation, adding to my growing list of friends across the country. I might have to get a second rolodex to keep track of all of them.
Bill is a volunteer docent on the local Train ride out of Clarkdale and we were discussing how everyone is so different in the way they tour. Some of the train passengers do the normal sightseeing, going out to the observation deck, asking questions about the region, others sit in their assigned seat and just look out the window without ever moving, others take a nap with the rhythmic rocking of the train, some even play cards never even looking out the windows while on the scenic tour. Each experiencing the train tour in the way that makes them feel fulfilled. We both realized that each traveler is getting out of the tour what they want to experience. Showing there is no right or wrong way to see the world around us.

And yet again, another new tire. I was checking my tires on my new truck (15 months old) and saw that one of the back tires had a gouge in it. Not knowing if the tire would last 20,000 miles or 20, I decided to replace it. How I had a chunk eaten out of the tire is anyones guess.
I’ll be heading up through Flagstaff where yesterday they had 50 mph winds, rain, snow and hail all in one day. We had some pretty heavy winds too, so not much fun being outdoors. I’ll stay in Williams and then onto Bullhead City where I plan on staying a week or two. Bullhead is right on the boarder of AZ, Nevada and Calif. Never been there so I’ll let you know all about it.
This picture was taken at sunset after an entire day of heavy winds. The sky was filled with dust and the sunset made it appear as if the hills were on fire.

Recent Books read:

Black Wind, by Clive Cussler. An adventure book. Clives books usually involve underwater adventures, searching for lost treasure. In this case it involved finding a sunken Japanese submarine with a dastardly cargo on board.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, by Joanne Fluke. Joanne’s books always have cookie receipts in them I gather. This if the first book I’ve read in her series of murder detective stories. A fun light read. If you’re a baker, you’ll love her receipts.

My current read is: Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman. Tony is my recent favorite author. Writing about the Navajo Tribe with such clarity and insight. Great story telling at its best.