Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hiking to Dana's Arch

This morning we drove out on Vulture's Mine Road and took a dirt road to a parking area where we left the Jeep. With walking poles in hand, we set out on a trail that went back to where we could see Dana's Arch above us on a ridge of volcanic rock.

The hike was rated moderate. We walked along hillsides that were covered with saquaro cacti.

Some areas along the trail had colonies of teddy bear cholla, a fuzzy looking plant with nasty needles.

We saw evidence of wildlife but the only animals seen were a couple small lizards and many birds. It was a pretty hike but we had to watch our steps on the loose stones as we walked up and down hills.

The hike was a little more than 1 1/2 miles and it did took us about an hour and half to complete.
Afterward we went into Wickenburg and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant. A stop at CVS to pick up a few items before returning to North Ranch completed the afternoon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hitting the Backroads and Wind

Monday morning, taking the Jeep, we left the campground and ventured out on some of the backroads around Congress. Back off the beaten path is an old cemetery, Pioneer Cemetery, where the gravesites are dilapidated.

                                        Some graves had headstones but were very hard to read.

It really looked to be in need of some clearing of the junk that has gotten accumulated, structures built around graves were falling down. Vegetation appears to have gotten out of hand although signs warn that nothing should be removed. Dates on graves that we were able to be deciphered were in the late 1800's, early 1900's and ages were those of children or young adults, mostly.

After visiting the Coon Hound cemetery in Alabama this winter and seeing how well that cemetery for dogs is cared for, it is sad to see a cemetery for pioneers of this territory so poorly cared for.
Moving on we traveled on a road that passed a gold mining camp, and continuing on, driving across a stream and up some steep mountainous road we eventually came out in Yarnell.

We returned from Yarnell by way of the main roads and then continued over toward the Vulture Mine. Getting close to lunch time we kept on driving what we thought was toward Wickenburg but actually it was away from Wickenburg. Finally in Tonopah, 50 miles southwest of Wickenburg, we saw a restaurant and were able to get a bite to eat. The weather forecast for the day was calling for some strong winds and sure enough the winds became stronger as the day went on. The dust was flying everywhere but luckily it did not become so dusty that it interferred with being able to see as we drove. After lunch we did return to Wickenburg, stopped at Safeway for a few groceries and then returned to our campsite at North Ranch. The winds continued most of the night and the temperature dropped to the low 40's.
Today, Tuesday, the winds have calmed but the temperatures have remained chilly with the high only reaching the upper 50's compared to the 70's of a day or 2 ago. It has been a quiet restful day, today. We didn't drive anywhere. Walked about the campground twice, did some reading, ate in the motorhome and took a snooze.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fountain Hills Art Fair

Yesterday, Saturday, we went to the city of Fountain Hills, east of Pheonix, for an Art Fair. There were reported to be about 500 artisans selling their wares. Thankfully it was a pleasant day for walking around and looking at everything that was being sold. Fountain Hills does have a fountain that every hour on the hour shoots water 300 to 500 feet up, depending on the windy conditions.

The fair was adjacent to the park in which the fountain is located so we saw the display a couple of times while we were walking about. We stopped at a Chili's restaurant on our way home for an early dinner.

Today, Sunday, after breakfast we hiked through the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) area next to North Ranch.

We met up with a couple that had a ATV with a wagon that they used to go out into this area to clean up cactus that people had tried to dispose of. This area could be closed off from being used if this practice continues. This is a desert area but aside from one lonely Saquaro there are no cactus growing here.

Mesquite trees and creosote bushes are plentiful. We did see some flowers scattered through the area.

                              Hoping to see some wildlife we did encounter a small herd of steers.

Free range cattle are common in this on BLM land. The remainder of the day we just chilled out. This evening we will go to the clubhouse for the Sunday evening ice cream get together. It has been getting windier as the day goes by and tomorrow the winds are predicted to be much stronger.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beautiful Sedona

Wednesday was a day of running errands- picking up mail at the Congress postoffice, a little grocery shopping in Wickenburg and lunch. The weather here has been just about ideal- bright sunshine and temperatures in the 70's. At night the temperatures drop into the 40's but when that warm sun comes up so do the temperatures. We only need a little heat in the mornings for about an hour and then soon some windows are opened and by afternoon some exhaust fans to keep us comfortable. Without open windows and fans the inside of the motorhome can get quite warm.

Thursday after eating breakfast we took off for Sedona, about 110 miles northeast. We traveled through Prescott onto Sedona on rte. 169. This was our third time going to Sedona but it still is breathtaking to drive into that area with the bright red rocks. I do think this is the prettiest Arizona area. We stopped at the National Park Visitor's Center to obtain the necessary permit that allowed us to park in designated National Park parking areas.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross built into the mountainside was our next stop. After finding a parking spot on the hillside we continued our ascent up to the Chapel on foot- it is quite a climb.

Once up to the Chapel the views are just magnificent.

                       Just below the Chapel is a "mansion" that has most everyone drooling over.

                            The Chapel has a very small sanctuary but is an interesting structure.

A few stops to take pictures and then we were downtown Sedona and it was lunchtime- how convenient! We ate at Open Range Grille, a restaurant that has big windows with views of the surrounding red rock mountains and the food was good, too. Before returning to the car we went to a camera shop to have my camera checked out, the lens cover had been balky at opening and on this day was not opening at all. The battery was found to be okay so the recommendation was that I should get another camera rather than to have this one repaired. (As it turned out Tom was able to get the camera functioning as it should when he worked with it later at the motorhome.) Getting back in the jeep we continued on through Sedona and up through Oak Creek Canyon. The rock structures change from the red rock to yellow rocks as we went through the canyon. The Oak Creek was flowing well- one of the few creeks in Arizona that actually had water. As we climbed up the canyon we saw patches of snow along the roadside. The canyon is covered with pine trees that does not allow the sun to penetrate to melt the snow. There is a viewing area that overlooks the canyon.

 Native Americans are at this area selling jewelry, pottery and other handmade items. I had to check out everyones' wares as I walked by. It was about 3:45pm and the vendors were packing up their wares to head out by the 4pm time of closing the viewing area.

From Oak Creek Canyon we returned back through Sedona where we picked up rte.89A that took us over a scenic route over mountains through the town of Jerome and onto Prescott. Jerome,a town created by a copper mine and now a artsy community, is situated on a mountain with narrow streets. We passed a truck pulling a small 5th wheel coming into town and wondered just how he was going to maneuver through those streets that was barely wide enough for cars. Driving along the sun was setting and the views were gorgeous. The eastern sky at one point was various shades of pinks and purples and then several minutes later the western sky had bright streaks of red and orange. Just beautiful. The roads we were traveling over were full of curves and had signs posted about anything over 40 feet not traveling over these roads. (In spite of the posting we passed a large, 40 plus foot, motorhome with a trailer hauling a pick-up truck. Can't people read the signs?) It was a great day full of beautiful scenery.

Today, Friday, we went into the town of Wickenburg and wandered about the shops, not looking for anything special. Wickenburg is a cowboy town and most shops have cowboy stuff- clothes, gear and housewares. We stopped at the postoffice in Congress again today to pick up some medical supplies we had sent here. Back at the campground we had a late lunch and then we went for our almost daily walk around the campground.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Church, Farewell and Prescott

Sunday morning the 4 of us, Larry, Joanne, Tom and I, decided to go to church services in Wickenburg. The emcee for the parade on Saturday made mention that he was the pastor at Hope Assembly church and gave a invitation to all that Sunday services would include the performer, Jack Jackson,(who was entertaining there on Saturday) and afterwards there would be a barbeque lunch. So that is where we went for church services. Being a Pentacostal church it was very different from the services that we are accustomed to. The services lasted 2 hours but the second hour was Jack Jackson performing. At the conclusion of the service a very nice barbeque lunch was served.
Monday morning Larry and Joanne packed up and moved on. It was nice being together the past few days and we were sorry to see them leave but they had been in this area for 2 weeks and had "hitch itch". We knew the feeling and bade them safe travels and we would be seeing each other after we all get back east. I then did a load of wash, Tom did some outside cleaning of the motorhome and then we went to Congress for lunch. Joanne and Larry had recommended a restaurant so we wanted to try it. We agree with them that the restaurant, Nichols West, is not much to look at on the outside but the food is really good.
Today, Tom and I went north to Prescott for the day. The drive up to Prescott is a very scenic drive going up mountains and seeing miles off in the distance. Of course as we were ascending the mountains the temperature was dropping several degrees despite the warm sunshine. Our first stop in Prescott was at the Visitor's Center. From there we went to The Sharlot Hall Museum. Sharlot Hall (1870-1943) was a poetry writer and had interest in frontier history. This museum has buildings, including Arizona Territorial governor's mansion, that are open for the public. The mansion is a rustic log building.

Eleven years later the Fremont House was built and the 5th Territorial governor lived in this house made of sawn lumber and much more modern than the previous "mansion". In a building displaying a vehicle collection there were a group of ladies doing quilting. Quilts are made and raffled off to help make money for the museum. From the museum we decided it was time to get some lunch so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant, El Charro, that was not the best but it satisfied the hunger pangs. Our final stop was at Sam's Club to restock.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wickenburg and Gold Rush Days

Thursday morning (2/16) we pulled up stakes in Benson, said a fond farewell to Drew and Marti Moehlau, and moved west on I-10 to Phoenix where we picked up rte. 60 north to Wickenburg, about 230 miles.  We enjoyed our time in Benson but were getting anxious to move on.
Actually we are north of Wickenburg in the vicinity of Congress in the Escapee park, North Ranch.  Larry, my brother, and Joanne are here and we were able to get a site next to them.  It was good to see Larry and Joanne and their traveling companions, Sadie, a dog and 3 cats.  Thursday evening Tom and I went into Wickenburg for dinner at the Hog Trough, a barbeque restaurant.  Food was good and spicy.
Friday morning the 4 of us went into Wickenburg as this was the beginning of the Gold Rush Days celebration.  This area has an old gold mine that is now being rehabbed and maybe reopened as a working mine again.  There are also numerous gold mining camps and even here at this campground, prospectors looking for gold in this area.  By the old train station/visitor’s center there was some entertainment by a female country singer being done.  After a brief stop we continued down the street to the art and craft Artisan Faire where nearly 150 vendors set up in small tents selling their art and craft products.  We spent a little time looking around and then decided we needed to eat some lunch.  We went to a nearby restaurant, The Golden Nugget, and had a nice lunch.  We returned to the art/craft faire to check out the remainder of the tents. 
Today, Saturday, we went into Wickenburg to see the parade that was scheduled to start at 10 am. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and temperatures in upper 60’s to lower 70’s.  The streets were crowded with folks waiting for the parade.  We waited at an intersection that had a country singer entertaining the crowd until the parade got to our area.  An emcee was also present and when the parade passed through he announced who the various groups were.  The parade lasted about 1 1/2 hours and featured horse riding groups, civic groups, a few bands and government officials.

 As the parade ended we walked about a block to the Cowboy CafĂ© for lunch.  After lunch we drove out of town to the rodeo grounds for a rodeo scheduled for 2pm.  People were crowding into the grounds.  Tom spied a parking spot but when he attempted to park there a man block his entry into the spot saying he was saving the spot for someone that was to be coming to the rodeo.  After a few words the man continued to stand in the space and Tom stood his ground stopping the jeep  also blocking the space.  Eventually the other car showed up and decided he would park elsewhere.  The man blocking the space made some threatening remarks about flattening our tires so we made sure we had license numbers in case anything happened in that regard.   We entered the grandstand area, found seats  and enjoyed the rodeo.  A little more than 2 hours later when the rodeo ended we returned to the jeep and all was well.  A good day with a little unexpected excitement.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Celebration and Tombstone

On Saturday, the 11th, we had plans to eat a Valentine's Dinner at the clubhouse here in the campground. There were 3 seatings and we chose to eat at the 5:30pm seating. So we met up with Drew and Marti at the clubhouse and dined with them. We had a choice of either prime rib or salmon which was selected when we purchased our tickets a few days before Saturday. Tom had the prime rib and I had the salmon and we both enjoyed our meals which also included salad, baked potato or fries, a vegetable medley and a cheese cake dessert. The meals that we have eaten here at the campground have been very good and the cooks (all volunteers) deserve a lot of credit.
Sunday we again attended the local Methodist church services and then went out for breakfast at the Horseshoe Cafe with Drew and Marti. We had heard that Tombstone was having a Wild West weekend so the four of us decided to go down to that wild west town for the afternoon. The Vigilantes, a group of re-enactors, were putting on skits depicting scenes from years ago when this area was ruled with gunfights.

We would watch the skits and then during the break times walked about the shops. Before leaving we went to the Crystal Palace for a late lunch.
Monday we didn't have anything planned but had somethings that needed to be done as laundry and housekeeping chores. It was a really nice day with warm 70 plus temperatures and bright sunshine.
Tuesday the weather made a big change. It was cloudy when we got up and the clouds continued through most of the day. Temperatures did not get out of the 40's. In the afternoon we were watching a movie on TV when we noticed that it was snowing even though the temperatures were above freezing. The ground was too warm for any accumulation of snow. It was also quite windy all day. Today was Valentine's Day and Tom had made reservations at a restaurant in Sierra Vista for us. As we traveled to Sierra Vista the wind had become calmer and the skies were beginning to clear. We even saw a bright rainbow off to the east. We ate at "My Big Fat Greek Restaurant" and had a nice meal- Tom had beef on skewers and I had chicken on skewers. The food was very flavorful. After dinner we went to the movie theater to see "Red Tails" about the Tuskegee airmen during World War II. Another good movie that both of liked.
Today is Wednesday and our last day in Benson for this year. We had purchased tickets a week or so ago to go to the Gaslight Theater in Tucson with others from the campground. Marti and Drew were going also and had asked us to go along with them. Adjacent to the theater is a restaurant "Little Anthony's" that is styled as a 50's diner with a menu of burgers, fries, malts and sundaes where we grabbed a lunch before going into the theater. The melodrama that we saw was called "The Two Amigos". Audience participated by booing and hissing at the bad guys and cheering the good guys. It was lots of fun. Bowls of popcorn are on all the tables for munching on during the performance. After the melodrama the cast did a Grand Ole Opry Olio impersonating Minny Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Porter Wagoner and others. The 2 hour show was lots of fun. Throughout the entire show a small group of musicians, a pianist, a drummer and a guitar player were playing music either as accomplement to the singers or as background music. The pianist was extremely outstanding as she banged out the music. This was indeed a nice ending to our time in this area of Arizona. Today's weather was much improved over yesterday- sunny, bright skies and temps in the upper 60's.
Tomorrow we are going to Wickenburg where we meet up with Larry and Joanne. We have been in contact but have not been together since Christmas so we are looking forward to spending some time together. Need to catch up on family news.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tubac and Tucson with Friends

Wednesday evening I went to the Ladies night out here at the campground. The theme for the night was the 50's. Yes there were some poodle skirts there. The menu was hamburgers, French fries and chocolate malts. Unfortunately, the fries ran out before our table was served so we had potato chips instead and the malts could have been better but the hamburgers were really good. The best part of these nights is the entertainment which is just plan fun and zany. The final act was a group of men that did a"synchronized swim routine"- oh how funny, watching these men doing this routine. It was a fun night.
Thursday, Tom and I went to Tubac for the Arts Festival. The town has over 175 artists displaying and selling their wares. Really beautiful southwest art is on displayed. The streets were closed off to traffic and were bustling with people. I'd hate to see what that town will look like this weekend as the festival continues. We had a nice lunch at Maria's Grille- it felt good to sit down for a spell in the middle of the day. We did find a jar opener that we had been looking for to use to remove some light fixtures in the motorhome at one of the kitchen stores in Tubac. And I found a jacket I didn't think I could live without in another store. But we left the artwork behind for others to check out this weekend.
Today, Friday, we along with Drew and Marti Moehlau went to Tucson to meet up with Rita and Bill Fordham for lunch at the Silver Saddle Steak House. This was a mini Traveling Americans get together! Bill and Rita are staying at Palm Creek campground in Casa Grande so Tucson was about halfway for them as well as for the Moehlau's and us. We had a nice lunch and great time of catching up on everyone's happenings.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Bisbee, Douglas, and Cranes

Monday was a day spent at the campground doing nothing too exciting or interesting. Tuesday was a different tale as we struck out in the morning heading south on route 80 toward Douglas, a border town that is about 70 miles from Benson. We passed through Tombstone and on to Bisbee. We had spent time in Bisbee last year so we just passed on through but on the southern end of town there is an open pit copper mine,the Lavender mine, that is no longer being mined.

We stopped at an overlook area and took some pictures and tried to read the posted signs that were in a real need of being replaced.

And then we continued our journey on toward Douglas. After crossing the mountainous area south of Bisbee we found ourselves to be in a valley surrounded by distant mountains. Our first stop in Douglas was at the Visitor's Center where we watched a film about Cochise County.

Center personnel gave us some literature and we set out to see the town. Within walking distance from the Visitor's center is an old El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Depot that was built in 1913.

The depot is no longer used as such but was restored in 1992 and is now used as headquarters for the Douglas Police Department. Inside the building is a stained glassed dome area.

The Gadsden Hotel was our next stop. This old hotel was built in 1907 and then rebuilt in 1928 following a fire the previous year. It has been called the "Last of the Grand Hotels". The main lobby has twin staircases of marble and four pillars topped with 14K gold leaf, valued at $20,000.00 in 1929. Forty-two feet across one wall of the mezzanine is Tiffany stained glass mural.

Many dignitaries and celebrities have stayed at this hotel. The doors to the rooms are unusal with the room numbers in wood carvings.

It continues to be used as a hotel and seemed to have people coming and going as we were there. In the lobby a dog was lying around not bothering anyone and on the stair landing there was a cat- a big stuffed mountain lion. Quite a place to see!

Leaving the hotel we drove about the city. One unique feature of the city is a block that has 4 churches, one on each side of the block- a Methodist, a Episcopal, a Baptist and a Presbyterian. Ripley's "Believe It or Not declared it the only place in the world with this feature in 1930. The end of town that borders Mexico has tall fencing, an old and a newer fence, separating the countries.

The population of the town appears to be mostly Hispanics. After lunch at a local Mexican restaurant we left Douglas and headed north toward Wilcox on route 191.
We came to the town of Pearce that at one time due to gold being found in the area had 1500 residents, presently the number of residents is 15- what a change. There is a gold/silver operation in the area that is run by a company from Ontario, Canada.

Not too much further from Pearce we came to an area known as Cochise Stronghold. We had to drive off on a side road that soon became a dirt road to go to a National campground by the granite cliffs.

The granite cliffs were the hiding place for Cochise when federal agents were searching for him and later he died and was buried in this area. Once to the campground the roads were paved and the campsites were also paved although the sites seemed small. The dirt road to the campground would not be good for driving any sizable RV in order to get to the campground.

Back on route 191 we continued north. We had been told that Sandhill Cranes had a migratory roost in the area near Wilcox from December until March. A power plant along 191 had a bird watching area set up so drove into there. A local man was there also but hoping to get a picture of a bald headed eagle that had been seen in the area. This man directed us to a place by the Wilcox golf course. As we drove into the ponds by the golf course we saw the first of several flocks of cranes flying in to roost for the night.

Apparently there are different species of cranes that roost in this area. It was amazing at the numbers of cranes that were in the grasses by the ponds- and the noise that these birds made.

About sunrise the cranes leave the roosting area in search of food, and that is to be quite a sight, and then later in the day they return to roost for the night.
From Wilcox we drove back to Benson and I-10 making an ice cream stop before getting to the campground. Later in the evening Tom went to the clubhouse to play Texas Hold'em and I just kept the home fires agoing.
Today, Wednesday has been another laid back day. Grocery shopping, post office stop, a load of laundry and a Jeep lube job. This evening I will be going to the clubhouse for Ladies Night Out- more about that at a later time.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

45th Anniversary

Yesterday, February 4th, was our 45th wedding anniversary. We started the day by going to a local restaurant, Reb's, for breakfast. From there we went down to Sierra Vista to attend the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering. This was the third year that we attended this gathering and we enjoyed it like it was the first. The Gathering is a 3 day event beginning on Friday evening. On Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon there are staged preformances in a high school auditorium. Saturday from 10am to 5pm there are multple poetry and music sessions. We attended a night performance the first year we attended but found that we preferred the Saturday day sessions best. There are 8 areas in the school in which every hour from 10 am until 4pm there are 50 minute sessions set up for 3-4 preformers to recite their poetry or perform their songs. Attendees just go to whatever sessions they choose.

The music is primarily cowboy music (think Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans). Arvel Bird, a Native American violinist/flutist educated in classical music, performed music in a Native American and Celtic style. Two hispanic brothers, the Morales, performed music with a Classical Mexican style. Many of the cowboy/girl performers come from ranching backgrounds and their music and poetry is reflective of that life.

One preformer that I found to be an amazing entertainer was an elderly lady, Buckshot Dot.

We had seen her last week at a bookstore here in Benson and then she again preformed at the Gathering. I would guess this lady is well into her eighties and just an unflappable performer. In the session we saw her she had lost her list of the songs she was planning to sing so she just sang whatever came to her mind. Occasionally she would get mixed up or forget where she was in a song and would just start over making a joke of the incident.

                                                Our favorite performer is Bill Barwick.

He plays the guitar very well and has a deep, rich voice. We had first heard him on the internet some years ago and it was through that means that we first learned about this Gathering in Sierra Vista.
When we left the Gathering we stopped for dinner at La Casita, a Mexican restaurant. After dinner we decided to check out the movie theaters to see if there was a movie that we would like to see. "Extremely Loud-Incredibly Close" was playing so we killed some time by walking about the shopping mall until movie time. The movie was an exceptionally good film. Even though Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock starred in it, the boy actor, Thomas Horn, was the central character and did a great acting job.

Unbeknownst to us, someone had placed a bottle behind our tire and when we backed out of the parking lot we heard a pop, saw what had been run over and held our breaths that we didn't damage a tire. Luckily we made back to the campground in Benson without a problem. It was a good day. I almost forgot- for our anniversary Tom got me a pretty sapphire necklace (45th anniversary is a sapphire anniversary) and I got him a card.

Today Sunday, we again went to the local Methodist church for services that included communion this morning. Afterwards, friends Marti and Drew and us went to the Horseshoe Cafe for breakfast. Today being Super Bowl Sunday we spent the remainder of the day in the motorhome and are now watching the game.