Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yuma Arizona, A Bonus Report

A Bonus Report
Yuma AZ

One last short report before settling in for the winter.  I had never been to Yuma AZ before.  It being on the very south western tip of Arizona, California and Mexico. I was surprised to see a vibrant city of 70,000 surrounded by flood irrigated fields on both the California and Arizona side.  Many fields of lettuce were being grown during the winter growing season.  Palm trees dotting the boarders of many fields and surrounding farm houses.   Finally only a trickle of water remaining in the Colorado River as it passes into Mexico.

Yuma has a couple of museums to check out and I concentrated on the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. One of the many Arizona State Parks currently being run by local funding and local volunteers during the many cut backs in State funding.  A very interesting site to learn about the people who were imprisoned here and what their crime was that got them here.  It eventually became the local High school and later housed many poor during the great depression.

For me the highlight of the area was learning about the Old Plank Road created over the Imperial sand dunes between Yuma and San Diego CA.  This was a brief period in our history back in the early 1900’s when cars were becoming a very popular means of transportation.  The sand dunes created a unique problem in that they couldn’t put down a solid road over the sand.  In 1915 they experimented with a design of two parallel planks for a model T to ride on.  The cars kept fall off the tracks.  In 1916 they finally got enough venture capital to build a solid wood planked road with turn outs for passing as it was only a single lane road.  The planks were built in sections and could be lifted and moved into place.

Barely a few days would go by and sand would cover portions of the road, causing delays and many accidents.  When vehicles came from opposite ends and met, one  of the vehicles would have to back up until they reached a turn out, before continuing forward.  Needless to say, there were many arguments of who that should be.  The plank road was rough and bouncy but many people would ride it to Gray’s Wells out in the middle of the desert for a picnic.  Just to experience the unique adventure of riding on a plank road.

Even though the road was only in use for 10 years, I still find it amazing how they persevered in finding a way to build a road across an ever shifting sand dunes.  Eventually a raised paved road would be built to replace it.  To be able to view a portion of the original road created during a dynamic era in our history is a great way to experience history as it almost seems to come alive in front of me.

Each one of these discoveries along the byways and highways teaches me more about how we got to where we are today.  With wonders of what could come our way in the future.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010-37 Lake Havasu to Quartzsite to Yuma Arizona


Campground:  Cattail Cove State Park, Lake Havasu Az.  $26 a night, elect/water.  Each site has an asphalt pad, and some have a tree but not much shade overall.  The surrounding ground is all raked gravel.  Boat dock and beach and some trails over and around the barren landscape overlooking the lake.

Campground:  Kofa Mt RV Park, Quartzsite Az.  $17 + tax Passport America, full hookups.  This is one of the 70 in town RV parks.  A nice neat square park with a few park models.  Friendly staff and residences.

Campground:  Cocopah Casino, Yuma Az.  $5 for 3 nights.  Dry camping.  large spacious parking lot sites designated for campers.  Within a couple miles of town and Wal-mart. I met some Rv'ers who are staying here for the winter... $50 a month.  They say it's pretty windy and dusty though.

I spent about 4 days at Cattail Cove, a nice state park, particularly if you have a boat of any kind and the summers would be great as they have their own boat dock and private beach on Lake Havasu.  It’ about a 15 mile drive into Lake Havasu proper.

From 95 one winds their way down through a canyon to get to the small park.  It was a nice place to stay for a couple of days.  Another 30 miles and I was in Parker Az and then onto Quartzsite the snowbird Mecca of the west.

Quartzsite is a hot, dry ragged town where everything looks like it’s been dusted with sand since forever.  During the winter (I’m visiting on the edge of the winter season) there are flea market type booths set up all throughout town.  Much of the towns stores, if that’s what one can call them are makeshift structures with maybe a metal roof, screen fabric sides and tables and merchandise covered in a thin layer of dust.   It’s not crowded yet, but the sleepy little town of less than 4.000 will grow by about 70,000 snowbirds within weeks.  In it’s heyday they used to get over half a million snowbirds.  Over 70 RV parks are in the town and thousands of acres of BLM land are available for long term dry camping in the winter.  No one is around during the 110 degree summers.  Two over the air tv stations are available, but they’re both Spanish.  Guess one could learn Spanish if that’s all they had to watch.

I’ve explored a few of the historical sites in the area.  Like Tyson Wash, where I saw grinding holes created by native American Indians.  These are deep holes on a rock outcropping that were ground down over the ages as the Indians would grind their corn, wheat and other type grains.  On the other side of the wash was an abandoned mine and along the walls were some impressive squiggle lines and shapes drawn by the Indians .  Found out this was the original site of Quartzsite until if flooded and destroyed the town.  They moved to the present location on higher ground.

I stopped in a bookstore called Reader’s Oasis Books.  The owner, a musician by the name of Paul Winer and affirmed naturalist told me about his life as a nudist and that he both performs music and runs the bookstore in the nude… well  ok, he does wear a mesh sack over his privates, but usually that’s it.  Today he did have a sweater on because it’s been only in the 60’s but his deep dark tan on his legs and slightly wrinkled buns were in full view. Great book store and great to meet someone who has always lived his life the way he wanted too.  He told me he went back east last year to do a concert and 1,000 people showed up to here the Nekid guy play some real razzmatazz music.  I should mention the book store has thousands of new and used books for sale, a true book worms paradise.

And of course I had to visit the memorial to HI Jolly, Hadji Ali, a camel driver brought over from Syria to manage an experiment by the Confederate Army for moving supplies across the desert.  The experiment was abandoned, Ali stayed and became a prospector.  Locals liked him and eventually built a monument to honor him and the camels he cared for.


Ok, this was the highlight of my trip through the Quartzsite area.  I drove over to Blythe Calif., about a 20 mile drive and then north on 95 for 15 more miles to see the Blythe Intaglios also referred to as geoglyphs.  These are drawings that have been either created by lining up stones on the ground, scraping a shallow trench to create an outline or tamping the ground.  The Blythe Intaglios were created by scraping the surface of the hard desert down to a lighter sand.

I believe the only other place on earth where these types of  drawings have been found have been in Peru.  The Intaglios were rediscovered in Blythe by a pilot flying over the area in 1931, George Palmer.  Some are as large as 100 feet by 90 in size.  Must have been quite the surprise seeing them for the first time.

A sign put up by the BLM marks the entrance.  I drove through the now fenced in area, once open to all ATV’s, which have caused some damage to the sites.  Driving along a rise over rough stone covered dirt tracks, I arrived at the first site.  It was early morning and the desert was still chilly from the cool night air.  A strong breeze was already picking up, meaning sand storms would follow shortly in the area.  Walking across the stone and rough rock landscape brought to mind the desolate area these drawings were created in.

The images were not all that easy to discern my being at ground level and they being much easier to view from above.  But just being on the site where they were created by an ancient Indian tribe, who knows, perhaps some only 500 years old, others could be thousands of years old.  Hard to get a date on something carved out of  the dry desert.  The native Indians that inhabit the area today do not claim them and do not know who created them.  So they could be very very old.

It got me to thinking about all the ways man tries to make sure he is remembered.  Or the gods he is creating an image of, as many of these images are believed to be of one of their gods.  How we are geared to purchase and own the land, for what 60 or 70 years and then we’re gone.  And yet the land goes on, thousands of years to millions of years and our touch can only be so brief upon the land.  Yet these Native Indians did create there geoglyphs and petroglyphs, many having survived thousands of years.  And in that spirit, people have piled rocks on top of the fence posts kind of as a remembrance.... and so did I... wanting to be remembered, even if only for a moment in time.

This may not be for everyone, but it’s of interest to me and gets me hiking across barren land and exploring these remote out of the way places.  Great way to get exercise without thinking about it.

Back in town, I had to go through some of the many flea market type vendors scattered around town.  Many catering to the RV crowd of course.  Purchased a few items along the way but mostly enjoyed talking to some of the vendors and customers.  One gal noticed my Key West T-shirt I had on which always starts a conversation.  She used to live in Fla. and traveled down to the keys and even lived there for a while.  I asked how she ended up in Quartzsite and she said she had been abandoned here.  Reminded me of the movie, Bagdad CafĂ©.  I’m sure there was much more to the story but didn’t get to hear it as we bantered back and forth about our love of Fla. and the keys and what it was like to live in Quartzsite.  You know, Quartzsite is a town of only about 4,000 folks with no good food stores or big box stores.  So most go to Parker or beyond to do any shopping.  And she described the dust storms and how everything gets covered in it.  My friend Mary Lu used to live in southern Calif.  In a place maybe like this.  The shop owner described how TV’s can catch on fire what with all the sand and dust that get caught inside the TV.  Never thought of that one…

At the Lacas Mexican Restaurant, the waitress, age about 70ish said she was glad to be working 6 days a week.  One of her customers who was leaving the area exchanged addresses and phone numbers with the waitress, saying we all like family after a while aren’t we?  She had just lost her husband 6 months ago and our waitress has a husband in the hospital.  That’s life in a small town where the workers and customers are family and look out for each other.  Even the clerk at the place I’m staying got a divorce recently and ended up in an old motorhome wondering what her next move would be.

It’s not only the places I visit, the sites and attractions, it’s the people that make the places real for me.  They become a part of the fabric of my memories and the stories I share.

note: you'll always find more pictures on my PICASA web site.

Friday, November 5, 2010

2010-36 Cottonwood to Lake Havasu Arizona

Leaving Cottonwood
Verde Valley Rail Road
Lake Havasu, AZ

Campground:  Winsor/Lake Havasu State Park, Lake Havasu, AZ.  $18, no hook-ups.  Great for fall/winter and early spring camping.  I’m within walking distance of the small beach and picnic area.  Main restroom also has good shower facilities.

Campground:  Buckskin Mountain State Park, Lake Havasu area.  $25, for electric/water hookups.  Many great shaded sites, but some in full sun.  Request a shaded site if you can as even in the fall it can be in the 90’s.  They have a restaurant and gift shop, but it wasn’t open in Nov while I was here.  The river wraps around the park and many kayakers enjoy paddling the calm waters.

Campground:  Cattail Cove State Park, Lake Havasu area.  $25, for electric/water hookups.

Note:  Lake Havasu is in an “Extended Network” area for Verizon.  This is the second location within AZ that I’ve found to have an extended network.  What that means is that although I can make and receive phone calls and receive e-mail messages on my Droid phone, I cannot get onto the internet.  So it’s back to wi-fi sites while in the area. My smart phone has temporarily become a dumb brick.

I was all set to leave Cottonwood when Bill Warner was able to get me a 1st class ticket on board the Verde Valley Train on of all days, Halloween.  Bill, known as Pumpkin Head for the day, greeted us and even got us pre-boarded on the train.  How cool to be able to be sitting in 1st class, looking out the window  as the “commoners” waited in line to get on board.

After a champagne toast, the train headed on down the steel rails through the Verde Valley.   The wheels squealing as the train went around curves in the track. As the powerful diesel engine quietly propelled us forward at about 10 miles a hour.   A lunch buffet was served and we enjoyed a good meal as the spectacular views rolled on by.  I spent most of the day out on the open deck cars, a perfect 70 degree sunny day with the occasional  thin layer of clouds sliding by.
The Verde Train

Thanks Bill for making my last day in the Cottonwood area so much fun.  I’ll miss all the folks at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and friends in the area. But….

Monday morning rolled around and I was ready to once again get back on the open road.  It would be more than a 5 hour journey to Lake Havasu and I was able to get out on the road by 7:30.  A bit early for me, but I was so eager to get on the road, that all I had left to do in the morning was close the slides, unhook the power and water and I was off.

I arrived at my first destination, Lake Havasu State Park, right in the town of Lake Havasu City home of the famous London Bridge.  I’ll be staying here for a few days, then checking out two other state parks in the area throughout the week.  One of the perks of work camping is that AZ state parks will comp their camp hosts a stay at other parks for a few days.  Winsor is right on Lake Havasu of course and I was able to get a primo site overlooking the water and the desert hills of California on the other side of the lake.

As the sun set early this evening, around 5:30 (who knows, I may be in another time-zone by now), I was able to enjoy a perfect desert sunset.  With the mountain range on the California side turning a dark black silhouette and the horizon turning a deep orange color blending into an ever darkening deep blue sky above.  Such rich colors.  So pure and deep.

I’ll enjoy a wonderful breeze through open windows this evening, as small rabbits hop around my camper in the twilight, munching on twigs and scrub.

London Bridge history lesson.  Robert McCulloch purchased the 13,000 acres for Lake Havasu for just under one million dollars back in 1963 at auction and was the only bidder.  The land was originally part of the 71% of the land owned by the Federal Gov in Arizona.  The Feds permitted the State to acquire some land for free and they could then lease it or sell it.  Hence, McCulloch was able to purchase this valuable land along the Colorado river.  As part of the development, he decided to purchase the London bridge which was up for sale in the late 60’s.  Yes the original 1825 London Bridge that we all sang songs about in our youth.  This bridge has seen of lot of history pass over it throughout the centuries including many beheadings that took place and the heads impaled on spikes along the bridge.  The bridge was purchased for $2.4 million twice what he paid for the 13,000 acres of land.  A channel was built to separate the peninsula jutting out into Lake Havasu, the bridge was rebuilt stone by stone and then rededicated in 1971. It is the second biggest visitor attraction  in Arizona behind the Grand Canyon of course.  It’s in remarkably good shape for a 300 year old bridge.  Now why can’t our bridges last that long?

While staying at Lake Havasu State park, my views of the lake have been wonderful.  The one annoying thing has been the constant noise from the boats.  The cigar boats, with their huge engines and often completely out of tune, sit idling on the lake with great roars and  thunderous guttural belching until finally taking a spurt of energy and racing across the lake, always seeming to be out of site behind the foliage along the lake shore. The casino boat crosses the lake every half hour, with a deep syncopated humming that seems to go right through me.  And of course the numerous party boats or pontoon boats cruising along to get to the other side of the lake or up the Colorado river their sounds becoming more distant the further they travel, all before turning around and making themselves heard once again on their way back.

Topock Gorge Tour:  While in Lake Havasu, I went on a 50 mile roundtrip tour up the Colorado River.  Sandy and Erich (Desert Trails Friends) joined me.  We left from our mooring at the London Bridge and headed north, through rugged barren terrain, except for the grasses and the occasional shrub and palm tree along the shore line.  The tour guide gave a monotone description of the landscape and stories about various boating enterprises along the river.  All terribly boring.  Thank goodness the scenery was worth the ride.  Love the image of the “Star Gazer” and although I only saw one petroglyphs, Sandy got a couple really great shots of the rest of them.

And lest I forget, Sandy and Erich recommended the Javelina Cantina.  Wed. is all you can eat taco's for $1 each.  Chicken, beef or bean.  I had mine on hard shells and they were home made and delicious.  Margareta's on special as well.  Good food, great prices on Wed. The locasl know about it and they don't advertise the specials... you have to know about it.

Thursday I headed down the road to Buckskin Mountain State Park for two days.  This is a very popular park.  I was given a great shaded site and with a bit of difficulty I finally backed into the site.  Odd how sometimes, it’s a piece of cake to back in and other times you’d think I was drunk on peyote buttons or something.  What’s nice is it’s a very quiet park and no loud motor boats passing by.

I have one more state park to hit, Cattail State Park, before heading south to Parker and Quartzsite, the winter home of thousands of snowbirds.