Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And to the other side of Death Valley

We've now arrived back at our lot in SoCal, just south of Corona and are "enjoying" the rains, 4 days and it's still coming down. A wonderful treat for the dry southwestern deserts, but not too great for areas scarred by the summer wildfires. Fortunately, we're only inconvenienced by a few roads closed by seasonal high water.

Before we came south last Friday, we managed another side trip 180 miles across Death Valley National Park to the Owen's Valley and to the Lone Pine and Independence areas along the eastern Sierra mountains. We enjoyed sunny and cold weather, snow on the peaks but none of the notorious winds usually so prevalent. One of our interests was to visit the Mazanar Internment/Concentration Camp which was now a national park. This camp was one of 10 that was used to "intern" Japanese-Americans during WWII. At it's peak Mazanar was designed to hold 10,000 men, women and children from the coastal areas of southern and central CA. The exhibits and buildings showed a stark world brought to life by the internees on this windswept valley. It also showed an hysterical and prejudiced nation which felt it necessary to "protect" itself from these people, many fellow US citizens. It also showed examples of many Americans who supported their Nissei friends and looked after their properties until the internment was over. Overall it was a very sobering experience. And quite chilling as well to read newspaper columns and opinions from then which can almost be seen today by simply substituting "Muslim" for "Japanese". But we have come some way since then, there are no more Mazanars being built, though Guantamo Bay may come close.

Later we went on up to Independence and the Museum of the Eastern Sierras. There we enjoyed the excellent collections of the historical society on the history and peoples of the Owens Valley, the controversial takeover/theft of the Owens River and Lake systems by the LosAngeles
Power and Water District in the early part of the 20th century and an incredible collection of over 400 baskets by the Piute and Shoshone. All manner of burden, storage and fancy baskets were on display. Very definitely worth the visit. ( (Monument Inscription at Mazanar cemetery: the "Soul Consoling Tower")

Our last stop in the area for this trip, was the Alabama Hills. A wide open geological tumble of granite at the base of the sierras which was the site of over 300 films, and most all of the early westerns from Republic Studios. You know, the ones we watched faithfully on Saturdays with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the rest. A lot of the early John Wayne movies, along with classics like High Sierra with Bogart and Gungha Din with Cary Grant were also set there. A relatively close 4 hours from Hollywood and a world apart it made for a great backdrop...and we enjoyed the views. Happy trails and Happy Holidays wherever you roam.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Las Vegas side trip

We've had a wonderful stay here in Tecopa, as you've probably noted by our absence from these pages. Not only have we enjoyed the hot baths, the quiet sounds of the desert, the deep, dark night skies, but also a few diversions to other places. We spent a couple of days haunting thrift stores, Ethiopian restaurants, the Rio Night Club and Casino and even a pawn shop in LasVegas. It was the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop on Las Vegas Blvd. made famous by the History Channel show, Pawn Stars. The only "stars" we noticed were on the door along with the hundreds of other gawkers like us seeking a view of Chumley and the crew. We also managed a genuine LasVegas "magic show" with Penn and Teller at the Rio. Amazing! is all I can say. Sleight of hand and mind taken to incredible ends. We also enjoyed a photo op at the Belagio as a Christmas treat while they assembled the Conservatory Christmas themed show. More interesting to see how they build the set, assemble the props and maneuver the materials around. In spite of the wonderful time, we also managed to bring back our first serious cold in over 5 years. Laid us both right out with cough, head and chest congestion and just plain yuk. We're finally on the mend, but it's slow and brings back the old meaning of the word "hacking".

That's it for tonight. Hope you're enjoying the season wherever you are.

Christmas Setup at the Belagio Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the road to Tecopa

Well we finally moved along from the lot and projects at Glen Eden after a month plus of delays and just "one more project". It wasn't until a week before Thanksgiving that we actually started the engine and turned our gazes to I-15 and 4 hours north to Tecopa, CA, just 50 miles north of Baker along a scenic secondary backroad route to Las Vegas and also Death Vally National Park. This is a favorite desert hot spring village we've been visiting regularly since our first trip here in 1995. We spent Thanksgiving with other desert dwellers at the local Community center and managed to soak daily in the famous Tecopa hot baths. Weather has been cooler than normal and winds have been more prevalent than we remember...something that gets your attention when the RV is rocked and buffeted by 25 mph winds first from the southwest, then from the north. But, it's part of the experience.
Tom managed a couple of hikes with the local Conservancy. One to an old gold mining area at Salt Creek and another was along the Amargosa River, recently granted a Wild and Scenic River designation. For those of us from the east, our picture of a wild river is a lot different than here in the desert southwest, though in times of heavy summer rains, wild is a mild term, torrential is often more appropriate. But for the most part this "river" is more like a small creek by our eastern experience. Yet, it is a lifeline for desert flora and fauna. But like much of the west, it's being choked by the invasion of the Salt Cedar or Tamarisk, a bush like tree imported from the Near East at the turn of the 20th century for erosion control. The dark side of this salt tolerant plant is that it outcompetes and displaces native plants such as the willow and cottonwood and draws a lot more of the precious water, many times drying up riparian areas. Efforts are underway in many areas including the Amargosa to eradicate the plant, but it is wildly successful adapter, tenacious and expensive to accomplish. Many local groups such as the Conservancy are working with and "pushing" the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to continue the eradication efforts before it is too late or too overwelming. Hope to be here for a few more weeks. Will post some more from Las Vegas and elsewhere in the region. Sunshine and warmer temps have returned. Even some rain last night! Great...until next time.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

All's well in SoCal still...

(Our first project: an urbanite (broken up concrete) drive extension for parking the rig and staining the entire patio area-a lot more work than originally thought!)
Well, we're still sitting and building out our first bit of homespace after 18 years traveling. It's been surprising to sit this long but it's been mild summer here at Glen Eden near Corona, CA and the price is right. It's also to make up for our carbon kharma from last year's cross country jaunt. Plus, it's fun to build and garden again after so many years.
Below is our 2nd major project, a 40' redwood fence complete with 2 coats of water-based stain! Another project easier designed than built. Engineering, technical and construction help provided by our good friend Mike Nash from Arizona. Plan is to use the fence as support for CA natives and espaliered fruit trees while adding raised beds in front and round the back. Compost pile is working overtime with the over 40 pounds weekly of cafe contributions (vege trimmings from the on grounds restaurant). To date we've processed, composted and diverted over 800 pounds of green waste and made some good organic matter to amend the DG (decomposed granite) "soil". We've also been working with the club to distribute the many years' accumulation of mulch around to the many landscaped areas on grounds.

Nancy continues her routine with the pool every morning as she can find quiet and space. Weekends are especially busy, but the weekdays bring her calm and a meditative pace. Have enjoyed weekly visits with my mother at her nursing home in Loma Linda. We usually find time to go out to her favorite restaurants, like the IHOP or Marie Callendars. And of recent we've been enjoying old movies from the 30's...the Thin Man series was a popular one for both of us.

It's hard to believe we've past Labor Day already. I even got around to tilting our solar modules recently realizing that the sun is heading south (metaphorically speaking). The temps are still pretty warm here and the SantaAna winds haven't arrived yet (the annual hot winds from the desert); nor has any rain since April. Luckily the native plants have adapted to this condition. Not sure we have yet. Fresh water is still a commodity too often taken for granted, here and probably everywhere. Happy trails for now. Keep in touch...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Southern California again and at long last...

Blame it on Facebook or blame it on the sunshine, blue skies and "the weather", but in any case, we've been absent from these pages for over a month. Nancy says it should be a little update more often. For me, it's a grand narrative when the spirit moves or when times change. But now, after 3 weeks settled in on our lot at Glen Eden near Corona, CA it's time to provide the "little update". After Tucson it was Phoenix/Scottsdale and friends. Then we moved the show on to Prescott for another week of reconnecting, hikes in the Ponderosa pines of the central highlands. Then, it was across the western desert and the Colorado to the familiar and the family in Southern California.

Tom's mom is doing well and was anxious and relieved to have the wanderers back in the area. Same for sister who values the backup and extra help with visits, doctor's appointments and just being here.

As for activities, it's fun to get reconnected here with lot projects here on our new site, backyard composting with Riverside County, gardening next door at Glen Ivy Farms while Nancy finds relief and strengthening from daily "hydrotherapy sessions" at the heated pool.

No pictures today...the blog isn't uploading. More next time...Happy trails!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tucson in the springtime

Greetings from another of our favorite winter stops, Tucson, AZ. We're enjoying the warmth and breezes of springtime in the desert. The flowers have been really great this year. The roadside from Ajo, across the Tohono O'odham Nation (formerly known as the Papago, or desert Pima Indians) was carpeted with orange and yellow poppies. We stopped over in Sells, AZ for lunch at the Desert Rain Cafe, a restaurant specializing in traditional foods ofthe Tohono O'odham people. Dishes include tepary beans, agave sweeteners, saguaro syrup, cholla cactus buds, prickly pear cactus jellies. We had a wonderful lunch and wandered down the road to the recently finished Cultural Center and Museum. The cultural center included exhibits on traditional and contemporary life of the People of the Desert. We noted that their nation is divided by the international border between the US and Mexico. Before 9/11 it was quite easy for tribal members to cross back and forth, since it was their own lands. But ever since it has become a nightmare with new border security and the atmosphere of distrust and danger as these lands are also remote and favored by human and drug smugglers making them a prime focus of Homeland Security efforts to seal the border. These people are again caught in the middle.

Here in Tucson, the smell of orange blossoms is everywhere or at least in the residential neighborhoods where I ride my bike. We've settled into a mobile home park in the central part of the city, close to lots of great sites and restaurants, yet in a quiet, older neighborhood I get to ride my bike along some very well marked and relatively safe trails through the city. We've enjoyed some hikes, restocking our natural foods and pantry at Trader Joes and Sunflower Markets, outdoor festivals and of course sampling some of the many wonderful ethnic restaurants. In fact, Tom took an afternoon cooking class which resulted in a wonderful meal of Oaxacan Black Mole with rice, fried bananas, chayote (a mild summer-type squash),a good wine and a shot of tequila!

Another afternoon was spent listening to music provided by various local bands all powered by the sunshine via a portable solar electric system. Tucson is a very energy aware town with lots of programs and focus on energy efficiency, solar electricity and water heating systems, and the value of water and water conservation in the desert.

Although this represents the values of the 21st century Tucson, we also had an opportunity to view all around us here evidence of the area from the 18th century with historic adobe buildings including the church and convent at San Xavier de Bac, just southwest of the city limits on the eastern edge of the Tohono O'odham nation. This church as recently completed a major restoration of the interior to when it was constructed by the Jesuits and Indians in the early 1700s when this area was still claimed by Spain.

There's so much to enjoy and savor here in the area, and the weather has been fantastic. But, our time is coming to an end here and we expect to be moving along this weekend towards a visit with friends in the Phoenix area. We'll miss our friends here, and will look forward to return in another year to explore additional parts of the city and the region. Until next time, happy trails....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Alive and well in Ajo

We've spent a glorious couple of weeks in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, just the two of us with the Saguaro, hummingbirds, gila woodpeckers and ravens along with the howls and yips of the coyote family that lives near where we're parked. The weather has been chilly in the evenings, with spectacular milky way views at night, and near cloudless deep blue skies daily. A bit of wind and rain greeted us in our first few days, but that gave way to springtime. As daily temps rise, we're seeing the Ajo Lilies begin to pick up growth, but we're afraid there won't be blooms until after we leave.
But we've rested and enjoyed near perfect silence here. An occasional fly by of the A-10s from Tucson en route to gunnery practice was the only "civilized" sound heard. It's remarkable the sounds of breezes through the saguaros and palo verdes as the many branches or needles create a soft whistle almost. With the extra solar modules and system rewire, we're enjoying more solar gain along with clear skies and have been a little less restrictive of our internet and digital entertainment. Nancy has been really getting a charge off working with Amazon's "Mechanical Turk". Most recently she's been troubleshooting customer service issues with a fellow in HongKong who's assessing the performance of the automated bus information for the Pittsburgh PA public transportation authority. All while sitting in the middle of the desert with solar electricity and a satellite internet connection! Que mundo! What a world!

Anyway, time to shuffle along. Hope to get to Tucson by Thursday via the TohonoO'dom reservation and a hoped for native meal and visit to their new cultural center. More later...

Pictures: From top left: 1-our little home in the saguaros, 2. Ocotillo in bloom, 3. Organ Pipe cactus view to southwest, 4. Our nearest neighbors at Tohono Oodum cemetery, 5. Our solar array and internet connection satellite dish. We now have 590 nominal watts of modules...enough for now!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

After visit to the "center of the world", what's next?

Recently enjoyed an afternoon in Felicity, CA, a roadside stop just west of Yuma on I-8. For years I've driven by and was always going to stop. And this year I did. Here was the self-described and promoted Center of the World, with a brass plaque in the floor (just over my right shoulder), beneath the apex of a pyramid. This spot is also to contain the "history of humanity" carved in granite for the millenia. (www.felicity.us) This project was the dream construction of a Jacques-Andre Istel, a Franco-American who reportedly finances and directs the work from successful businesses in the early recreational parachute industry. Little information about the background of the project was readily available, but it was a pleasant afternoon to walk around the grounds angling for photos and inspiration. It was a beautiful day in February without need of overcoat or other special preparations. The work is extensive. Two engravers were at work on the granite slabs drawing and printing parts of the narrative. There are also panels dedicated to both California, Arizona, the history of the French Foreign Legion, the solar system, medicine and the sciences and many other topics. Rather eclectic but I guess that's his right to include what he wants.

We've enjoyed our longer than anticipated stay here. Working for StarlightSolar was intense but very enjoyable and it proved a great opportunity to become more uptodate on the latest equipment and installation techniques for battery-based RV systems and to get better acquainted with Larry and Deb Crutcher, the owners. We even added an additional 130watt module to our roof and rewired the setup to cut out the long wire runs and make the system more efficient, and powerful. We now have 590 nominal watts of solar, and will see how we fare...we didn't really have any problems before, but the price on solar modules is pretty low, so now was the time at just under $4.00/watt cost. We're looking at this as a real possibility for next season for an even longer term in the winter

But our part of the solar sales season is at an end for this year. We're off on Friday for Ajo, AZ and then on to Tucson, or at least that is the plan for now...Happy trails

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From "where the sun spends the winter", Yuma, AZ

Los Algodones, Mexico streets and signage for dentists and pharmacies

(On our way in, the grey hairs walking to the border...convenient parking on US side provides easy access but ever since the heightened US security efforts, the return walk especially after lunch has increased to at least 1.5 hours in line...guess the drug prescription coverage is lacking and medicare doesn't cover dental work, so we cross over to exploit the cost difference, while the "illegal" immigrant crosses over to exploit the wage difference.)

Arrived a couple of weeks ago to this historic town along the Colorado River. It's lettuce and brocoli and citrus harvest season and the fields are ripe and full of pickers, the roads are full of field transport trucks and the cooling and storage facilities are operating on overtime. We have enjoyed good weather, mild rains and good times with some RVing friends of many years. This area has appealed to many as a "settle in" kind of place, seasonally friendly especially from this years weather woes, with lots of RV parking either out in the public BLM lands around the town, or in the many RV and mobile home parks. We've completed our several visits to Los Algodones, BC, Mexico, the small border town noted for it's dentists and pharmacies. By the way, these aren't being supported by the Mexican nationals, but by the grey hairs from the US and Canada, looking for the prescription drugs and dentures (crowns, implants etc) along with the "authentic" Mexican experience of a margarita with a lunch plate of tacos and beans, then standing for an hour or more waiting to walk back in to US through the newly upgraded border and customs station.
We've decided to stay longer in the Yuma area, largely because Tom will be working and helping out friends in their RV solar electric business. This is high season and they're swamped selling solar modules, system components and installations along with sharing lots of information and advice. It's already appearing as lots of fun and a good way to stay current in an exciting and fast changing industry. Technology has moved along significantly and costs have come down as late as the solar photovoltaic industry ramps up capacity worldwide, and the recession of the same dimensions has dampened demand most recently. This is a great time to invest in the solar modules and systems!
Happy trails and until later...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Now that was a rain!

Thought we had returned to NE Pennsylvania this past week. The rain, cold temps for here (in 40s) and grey skies certainly made it feel like our old home place. The winds were out of place as these howlers came down the canyons and 50+mph gusts were certainly a change. Had snow all over the SanBernardino mountains with many areas closed due to 4'+ of new snow in just a few days. Needless to say we've had to resort to our generator as the solar modules couldn't keep up with the nearly opaque skies. Of course our electrical usage was only marginally impacted since we knew the propane tank was full and the generator needed to be "exercised". Our plans to leave for the desert and friends got sidetracked as the weather was to be the same or worse, and out there, near Quartzsite, AZ, there wasn't any hot tub, heated pool, showers or Barnes and Noble. SO, we suffered a bit longer here.
(After the rains, this morning our first day of sun in over 5 days! Tough once you're used to it)
We did have a leak, our first in many years and the worst ever in the motorhome and of course while the rains poured it was hard to find the source...maybe when we get a bit dried out we'll have better luck. It flooded the passenger front seat floor, but not the walls or ceiling. Suspect it to be in the window frame. Will have to pull up carpet to get it dry, too. Not looking forward to this. But, grateful that we had our larder full and thankful for the fresh picked Navel oranges from next door at Glen Ivy hot springs. It's nice having the farm and orchard just 2 miles away, and Trader Joes just 5...

We finally got everything together by 3pm to leave today, Saturday, bound for Yuma and the dentist in Los Algodones, BC, Mexico. Don't really know why it took so long, but managed a nice hike over the hill along USFS property overlooking our little canyon. Enjoyed the smells that fresh rains bring to these normally dry areas. Noticed a dusting of snow on the nearby Santa Ana range and a lot of sheet erosion, but not enough to spoil the walk. Said goodbye to the folks here. BTW, we bought a lot here and look forward to spending more time in the sunshine and in SoCal in the future. Not enough to stop traveling, but enough to have a place to clean out the basement and leave a bunch of stuff we carry but don't use much. Also, a regular place for Ms. Nancy to get her much needed swimming exercise. And, there will be lots of garden and building to keep me busy, too.

We made it to Indio tonight and are enjoying the freeway sounds along I-10 at the scenic parking lot of the Spotlight 29 Casino. Bobby Vinton is playing tonight and we don't have any tickets. And so it goes. Tomorrow on to Yuma...

Friday, January 15, 2010

It might be rain

Greetings from the Inland Empire of SoCal, along I-15 between Corona and Lake Elsinore...
We've been having great sunshine and warm temps for the past couple of weeks. I've enjoyed time gardening and playing in the dirt next door at the Glen Ivy Hot Springs. The garden is operated for the benefit of the religious community there who value organic, home/locally grown fruits and vegetables. They have over 18 acres in grapefruit, avocado, orange and vegetables. It's a real treat to be able to help out and enjoy eating such wonderful produce and fruits. Especially this fresh in the middle of winter. It's one activity that I sorely have missed in our on-the-road life these many years. This opportunity to volunteer and help out in exchange for produce is the next best thing to our own garden, without all the inventory and costs.

Rains are coming so looks like we'll sit tight and hope they pass soon enough for us to move along to Quartzsite and then on to Yuma for our annual dental visit. We do hope to make it to Q, but know the area to be pretty miserable and muddy after serious rains as are forecast for our first of the season El Nino event. Stay tuned for more...