Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

(Jan) The Moore Family tradition was to gather on Christmas Eve, dine on Oyster stew and then open gifts. We continued this tradition with our boys and then our daughter-in-laws and grandkids as the family grew. Since we have been coming to Arizona, Chuck & I have had Oyster Stew and played cards with Chuck's mom, Joanne. This year for the first time in 45 years we are not with Moore family. We miss our families but were grateful for phone calls and Skype sessions! And thanks to our Boomer friends, we were included for Pizza and Cards on Christmas Eve and the Christmas dinner at Ron & Sharon’s with a really fun group. Below Left to Right are Jenny, Ron, Jim & Diane, Dan, Ron Chuck & Jan, Sharon, Loren Carol, Dianne & Frank.

Before we came to park on Ron & Sharon’s lot for the Christmas festivities, we spent a couple of days out on SidewinderIMG_20131217_083340_974 Road with our friends Karen & Bill and Kaaren & Mickey. We sure enjoyed getting to see them again. We also loved taking long walks in the desert and along the near-by rail road tracks.  Here’s a photo of one of the BNSF Train Engines parked on a siding. It sure was huge up close & personal! There were also some awesome sunsets!PC180032

 

 

 

Last Friday, the six of us plus Ron & Sharon and Loren met at the Q Casino for Dinner. Before we all assembled, Ron & Sharon were exploring the pool area at the Casino and Sharon slipped on the steps and fell, breaking her left ankle! She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and had a 2 hour surgery to fix the ankle with a plate and 10 screws. On Monday she was allowed back home and she and Ron wanted to continue with their Christmas plans to host our Boomer group of 13 friends. Our friends Frank & Dianne arrived to stay with them in their mobile Christmas Eve Day and the past 2 days have been a whirlwind of visiting, games, food and laughter!  Dianne took over the Turkey roasting duties and the rest of us pitched in with more food than we could possibly eat….but we sure tried! We are indeed blessed with these friends and their friendships!

Back again to last Friday, Ron said he thought they would be involved at the E/R for a long time so the rest of us should go ahead with dinner.  While we waited for news from Ron & Sharon we did enjoy a prime rib dinner and lots of visiting! Karen, Jan, Kaaren, Chuck, Loren, Mickey & Bill are looking forward to having Sharon & Ron join us next time!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Taking a break in Quartzsite

IMG_20131212_135259_012(Jan) My brother Ron and sister-in-law Scarlet were coming through Quartzsite last week so we headed up to our favorite spot at MM99 to meet them.  We had an awesome time having pizza at Silly Al’s on Wednesday night and then spent the day Thursday seeing the sights in Quartzsite. We wandered through some of the tent stores and rock shops at Rice Ranch, through Gem World, saw the Hi Jolly monument and Q’s 1050 year old Iron Wood tree. That evening Chuck grilled dinner for us and our Boomer friend, Loren, who was parked near us. We loved having this time together.PC140016

 
Loren and Chuck & I enjoyed several more days together. We did some walking, some eating and played some fun hands of three handed Pegs & Jokers Express using the 2’s as a Wild Card. Really Fun!

On Sunday Loren went to visit friends so Chuck & I decided to hike the Q Hill after church services. This seemingly small climb has a nasty upgrade at the top and sure had us puffing. We found the geocache at the top and there’s a lovely view of Quartzsite IMG_20131215_111823_634and the surrounding mountains.

We enjoyed the peace and solitude of our desert home. We took lots of long walks among the beauty of the desert landscape.The rising of the nearly-full moon and the sunsets silhouetting the mountains, saguaro cactus and ironwood trees were awesome! I am often reminded of the words to the hymn “How Great Thou Art”

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

 

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Our Mail was delivered ‘General Delivery’ to the Quartzsite Post Office on Monday. After picking it up, we were on our way towards Blythe and then south in California to another of our favorite Desert boondocking spots; Sidewinder.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Telegraph Pass

IMG_20131209_120057_203(Chuck) We hiked Telegraph Pass today. It is the mountain that dominates the skyline to the East of Yuma. On top are a host of large antennas which service the area. To maintain the equipment there is a service “road” which winds up the side of the mountain. This service road is visible from many parts of the Foothills area. The first 1.7 miles of the hike is up a dry stream bed and a trail across the hills which leads to the locked gate at the bottom of the service road hill. From there it is a difficult 1.2 mile slog up the hard surfaced road to the top. The road is actually rough screeded concrete. It is intentionally left rough because much of the incline is 35% grade; several sections I measured at 49% grade. It is a brutal climb. The last 3000 feet gains 644 feet in elevation. On the top you can see the town of Welton to the East. To the West is the Foothills and Yuma. Beyond Yuma is Pilot Mound in California and also our favorite hiking area which is the Olgiby Hills by Sidewinder Road. We last climbed Telegraph Pass in March of 2009. It seems hard to believe, but it was almost six years ago. I think that we are in better shape now than we were then, however it was a hard climb, and it got the heart rate up for both of us. We parked the Jeep at 474 feet and topped out at 1539 feet at the summit. We have both been dragging our butts for the rest of the day and we will sleep well tonight.

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Looking down the hill. The road runs down through the valley. The Yuma Foothills are in the background.

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Looking up the hill towards the towers on Telegraph Hill.
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yuma Again

(Chuck) We have moved on to Yuma and are very much enjoying the weather. We are comfortably settled in on 53rd Street. This is where we have spent many of our stays in Yuma. We do not settle in for the winter as many of the visitors seem to do. Our activities for the winter will take us up and down the Colorado River between here and Lake Havasu City. Our first item on the list was to check in on Moms property. It is secure and all is well. My sister plans on selling it and we have put up “For Sale” signs. It is a fact of life that properties are for sale in Yuma. There is a constant turn over of lots which gives prospective buyers a wide choice of bare RV lots or developed homes. Many of you knew my mother Joanne when she lived in Yuma. She received mail and packages for many RV’ers who needed an address while they were in town. Mom found it increasingly difficult to live alone and last spring she traveled with us to the Seattle area to live with my sister. She has recently battled breast cancer and is doing well at this time. At 85 years of age she underwent chemotherapy and at this point she feels well and has no pain.

We have settled into walking mornings and evenings. Jan has a FitBit and we have found it to be a good incentive for exercise. We have walked 10,000 steps each day for quite a while now and though we may not maintain that level forever, it is most easily done here in the Foot Hills of Yuma. The streets are very wide and smooth. It is reasonably level and we have grown to enjoy the exercise. 10,000 steps seem to be about four and one-half miles. The biggest problem is that it takes a large part of our morning and evenings.  It seems that between steps, social occasions and regular RV maintenance projects, soon the day is over and it is time to enjoy the desert sunset. In truth, we are truly blessed and there are bigger problems to be found in life.IMG_20131202_175121_714

At this time we have fixed a leaking black valve, scrubbed and cleaned the water bay, washed the clothes and washed the car. In addition to that:  It is time to reorganize the basement, fix a leaking front wheel hub seal, clean the battery compartment, and wash and wax the rig.

Next week we will travel north to Mile Marker 99 by Quartzsite. We will have a chance to spend a short time with Jan’s brother Ron and sister-in-law Scarlet as they travel through Q on I-10 to the Phoenix area to visit Scarlet’s family. We are looking forward to being with them again. Our plan is to spend desert time at Q and probably travel back down on the west side of the river to spend time with friends on Sidewinder Road. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Death Valley and South

PB230011(Jan) The sun returned to Death Valley on Sunday but because of the rains many of the gravel and dirt roads we had hoped to explore, were closed. We were able to go to Zabriskie Point and take in the awesome view pictured at left.  Our second stop was a paved road called Artist Pallet. It took us on a fun winding drive up into the hills to see some awesome color in Death Valley’s Hills.IMG_20131122_124803_848

 

 

 

 

 

We also went for a nice hike up the Golden Canyon to see the Red Cathedral. On our way up we came across a bunch of people with Star Wars T-Shirts taking photos of something in a side canyon.  Look closely at the photo below on the left. It’s a JAWA! We did hike all the way to the end. The hike stopped at a steep wall that climbed up to the top of the red cathedral cliff.  The last 1/8 mile was a steep, winding climb that we thoroughly enjoyed. We were awarded some great views of the Panamint Mountain range across the valley on the way down.PB240029

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This was the view in our rearview mirror as we left Death Valley NP. We certainly will be back!

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PB250010On our way south we decided to drive through Mojave National Preserve. Encompassing 1.6 million acres, the highest point is Kelso Peak. The preserve has one of the largest, densest stand of Joshua trees and a large area of sand dunes. We thought the area looked a lot like the desert around Quartzsite but…with horrible roads. We certainly will not be back!

(Chuck) After our enjoyable stay in Death Valley we moved on to the Steps. It is an area South of Lake Havasu, AZ. It was good to be back to the sunshine and warm temperatures of Arizona. 25 or 30 rigs are parked here. It surprised us and it seems to be a sign of higher use of this area. Five years ago when we first visited it seemed to be a very quiet place to stay. Today we talked to people in five rigs that were planning to spend the entire winter here.IMG_20131126_092438_762 This long term usage may signal a new series of regulations and concerns.IMG_20131126_093026_387 It is necessary that those of us who use these boondocking areas keep them clean and hopefully the area will be available for years to come.

On a hike today we came across the carcass of a Big Horn Sheep. The coyotes have cleaned it up and soon someone will have a nice set of horns to put on their garage wall.

(Jan) For tonight we are at home at MM99 south of Quartzsite enjoying the quiet desert, clean air and beautiful views.PB260014

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Death Valley

PB190009(Jan) We have wanted to go to Death Valley for years and finally we are in the right area with time to explore. Death Valley is the USA’s largest park in the lower 48 states. (USA’s five largest are all in Alaska) It is vast. Open. Amazing. There are so many places to go and see, so many places to hike and explore.  Although our weather has been rainy and cool the last several days, our enthusiasm for this park has not diminished. We stayed at Stove Pipe Wells for the first couple of nights and then moved over to Furnace Creek ranch. We now have cell phone and internet coverage. Here are some of the places we have been in Death Valley.PB210017PB210025

Mosaic Canyon was just a short drive up a gravel road from the Stove Pipe Wells CG. It was a fascinating canyon hike with walls of marble and mosaics of fragmented rocks. The rock patterns in the canyon walls were amazing. The first half mile was a slot canyon with some slick rock scrambling but after that the valley broadened out.

PB210013The Salt Creek Interpretive Trail is a boardwalk along a small stream.  It is home to the inch long pupfish that are found only in Death Valley in hot, forbidding, saline water. We did spy several of the little fish but they are extremely fast soPB190005 our photo is of Blue Heron tracks in the shallow water. Watch out Pupfish!

We were also camped next to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes which were lovely as the sun cast light and shadow across their surfaces. The Dunes are 100 feet high.

PB200082On the day we went to Scotty’s castle, we also drove over to the Ubehebe  (U IMG_20131122_132635_923bee hee bee) Crater where we hiked the edge of the crater. ”Just a few hundred years ago a massive volcanic explosion caused by magma mixing with an underground spring, shatter the silence of northern Death Valley. When the dust settled, this 600 foot deep crater remained.”

The salt flats of Badwater Basin are the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. After the winter rains there is a shallow lake here but in the dry heat of summer the lake dries up to a vast salt flat. The day we were at the salt flats it was a 58 degree, rainy day; a real contrast to summer’s blistering heat!

PB200005(Chuck) Death Valley is famous for Borax and the Twenty Mule Team. Borax deposits led to mining activity in the 1880’s. These large teams hauled two wagons carrying twenty ton loads of borax and a third wagon of water. They traversed a 160 mile stretch of desert to deliver their loads. It was an incredible accomplishment. These large teams were used only from 1883 to 1889. New mining deposits and other methods of transportation were more efficient and led to the decline of 2011311184917368the twenty mule teams.

The mules were hitched in pairs and the total hitch pulled on a 120 foot length of chain. To guide the team that stretched so far in front of the driver a jerk line was used. This line was fastened to the lead mule. This mule was trained to follow the commands of the line. If the driver wanted to turn left, he gave a steady pull on the line. If a right turn was wanted the driver would give the line several jerks.

Because the team was over 120 feet in length, special tactics were used when the wagon needed to make a sharp turn on the road.IMG_20131123_131210_397 The lead pairs followed the road. As the pairs closer to the wagon approached the curve they would jump the chain and pull to the outside of the curve. This would keep the wagon from going off the road. This was called the dance of the mules, as captured in the painting above.

The lead mules wore a rack of bells on the harness to warn approaching wagons. Only teams hauling freight wore bells, empty wagons did not. Empty wagons were obliged to pull over and give passage to loaded wagons.  If a driver experienced a break down and needed assistance from another driver he was obliged to give the bells to the driver who gave him assistance. This led to the saying “I’ll be there with bells on” which meant that he did it on his own without help from anyone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Death Valley Ranch (AKA Scotty’s Castle)

PB200019(Jan) The story starts out with Walter Scott, a veteran of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and his two pieces of gold. “Scotty” was veritable story teller and sold shares in his Death Valley gold mine from New York across the states to California. One of the buyers was a wealthy Chicago businessman Albert Johnson. He was a civil engineer who broke his back in three places in a tragic train accident which killed his father. He amassed a fortune with his very successful National Life Insurance PB200023Company.

After several years went by with no word and no dividends from Scotty, Johnson headed west to check out Scotty’s Death Valley gold mine. What he found there was Scotty! No gold mine but a golden friendship, a simple cowboy lifestyle he loved and a climate that suited his health. His wife, Bessie, liked Death Valley, also, and so Albert had a simple block vacation home built for them in the desert. Bessie, whom he had met at Cornell University, was not into simple however and architect’s plans were soon sought for a more elaborate Spanish influenced adobe castle.

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We took a tour of this amazing castle and also, the underground tour that showed all of the ingenious ways they used water power from a near by natural spring to produce electricity for their isolated home. The Pelton Water Wheel Turbine installed in the 1920’s is still capable of operating today.  

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Part of the huge bank of Edison batteries that provided electricity, on the left.
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Our guide showing us the Pelton Turbine system on the right.

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Our tour of the house took us in through the massive front door into the main living area with it’s huge wrought iron chandelier. This is where the Johnson’s and Scotty entertained friends from past President and wife Herbert & Lou Hoover to Will Rogers. Scotty’s Bedroom and the Solarium were on this floor as well as a sitting room, the dining room & kitchen. Upstairs were the Johnson’s private rooms and guest bedrooms for important visitors. (Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)

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Across the galley way upstairs where several more stylish guest bedrooms and a fabulous music room with several organs, one of them a huge player pipe organ. Valuable antiques are displayed through out the house, including two Don Quiote tapestries, an European scrolled gate and King Ferdinand’s wooden chest.

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We strolled the grounds, walked up to Scotty’s grave on the hillside above the castle and ate our lunch under the shade of California palm and native cottonwood trees. Scotty’s Castle is located on the northern end Death Valley National Park.

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Albert and Bessie Johnson were Scotty’s source of gold for the rest of his life. Albert was quoted as saying, “We have been partners for a long time. Scott has a great appetite for money, and I like to feed it. He has repaid me – in Laughs.”

 
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