We stopped in Quartszite again. Q, as we call it, is located at the junction of US 95 and I 10 also AZ 95 goes out of Q to the north to Parker and Lake Havasu, to the south is Yuma. Q has a collection of RV service companies and swap meets AKA Flee Markets. Lots of vendors selling almost anything except the thing you are looking for much of the time.
We came here because this is the best place to get photo voltaic solar installed (photo voltaic is direct to electricity, thermal makes hot something, usually water). We had shopped a bit on our way through to LA and knew we were going to Solar Bill to get what we needed. We pulled the coach into his shop as planned and immediately began discussing what would actually fit and what we really wanted as opposed to the package we had agreed to a week previous. Hmm, shop? think an old corrugated shed with a couple of shipping containers for inventory. Most of the work area is open air and the major concession to keeping things neat and clean is a selection of carpeting tacked down on the ground to keep the sand dust down. On the other hand the sun shines most days and rain is seldom an issue. For the RVers reading this we installed two 210 W panels on the roof an MPPT controller from Blue Sky and just because I am a gadget guy the remote is the IPN Pro which gives me more information about the state of my batteries and the charging system than I know what to do with. Of course to get that information required significant extra wiring and then a fair amount of learning curve for me to start getting the information and then figure out what it means. This took a couple of calls back to Bill of Solar bill and eventually to the manufacturer for some serious tech questions. Four days later it is working fine and I have useful information about the state of the batteries.
After that work, we took the Jeep and drove to Parker AZ, about 90 miles north. With a little research we found Lily’s Mexican and had a delightful meal, typical Mexican but very well prepared and nicely served. If you find a way to pass though Parker, it is worth the stop. We decided to travel up the west side of the Colorado River, that must be back in California, to Parker Dam and we were shocked at how BLM has developed the river bank for 16 miles with campground after day use area after campground. Many dirt tracks lead off to the west and I was tempted, not having a map, or usable GPS or any self rescue equipment it seemed foolish so we didn’t. A stop at Rock House Visitor center brought us in contact with a garrulous volunteer ranger who told us more than we could absorb about the area. We retained two things a road past the dam up to Havasu Palms and The Desert Bar. We took the road up past the Dam and when we saw several vehicles stopped at a dirt road entrance, I stopped and asked a young father with his wife and kids if it was appropriate to take a Jeep up that road. He assured me it was and that he had been doing it for 40 years (I guess he counted time in the womb). He gave us directions for an interesting loop with a steep climb and a rocky wash and stuff. The first turn was 4 miles up the dirt side road to Havasu Palms. At two miles we saw a turn that met his description but there were two more miles to go. From 3.5 to 6 miles in we saw no usable turn. We decided the better part of valor was to stick to the “main” road and tour Havasu Palms before returning to the dam. The place was interesting, it is a cluster of manufactured homes on cliffs above the river, the views are gorgeous. It is 7 miles up a barely improved dirt road (Dan, Malena, better than Hungrytown Hollow, but 7 miles) and then miles of paved back road to get to the Dam and over into AZ where it is another 10 miles to any kind of shopping, like for food.
As we retraced to the south on AZ 95 headed back into Parker, we watched for Cienega Springs road to the Desert Bar. It is only open noon to 6 Saturday and Sunday. It was 3:30 Saturday as we turned up the road. This road was interesting. We saw lots of vehicles headed out. There were plenty still there when we arrived. The band was playing music from the fifties and sixties and we had a chance to dance to three long numbers before they stopped playing at 5. Back down the five miles to 95 and back to the coach for dinner.
After a number of stops on Monday we finally got to Senator Wash, but decided to set up camp in the Gavel Pit above the lake as the the lake is dry. They may fill it while we are here, but this is our decision. Something different.
On the way to Los Angeles we stopped over night first in Quartzite where we shopped for a solar setup for our coach. Then we moved on to an Elks Lodge in Beaumont-Banning CA. On the way we stopped at Chiriaco Summit on I 10. We have driven by innumerable times and even stopped for fuel and lunch. We had noted a collection of old tanks (the military kind) and a sign declaring this to be the General George Patton Museum. We had time and decided to spend some of it in the museum ($4.50 for Seniors). It is certainly a revelation and somehow tied into our previous history stop. It turns out that just out of West Point Patton, then a Lieutenant accompanied Black Jack Pershing on his raid into Mexico tracking down Pancho Villas after his raid into the US (see previous post). The museum is on the edge of the site of the Desert Training Center created by Patton to prepare for the war in North Africa. My father was stationed in Banning, not far down the road and I suspect he had some training time in this locale. Also there is a modern Desert Warfare Center that may even encompass some of the original land where our son Dan spent some miserable training time during his time in the service.
After a stay at the Elks Lodge in Beaumont we moved on across to the Los Angeles Basin and our reservation at Dockweiler RV Park. We had secured five nights in the back row (of three) furthest from the beach. Through President’s Day the place was fairly full. Last night we returned after dinner to find our coach surrounded by empty slots and tonight there may be 6 or seven RVs in the 117 spaces.
For entertainment we went to see the Endeavor at the LA Science Museum. This is not to be missed. It comes on top of our recent visit to the Houston Space Center Control Room and it is very well set up even though they have not completed the permanent exhibit space. The volunteer docent we ran into was full of information not included in the signs and was anxious to tell us everything we might want to know. We also took in the 3D Imax movie Hubble which was well worth it. Combining 3D and Imax is really mind blowing.
Sunday night Tal had a sleep over with a friend and Miriam, Yechiel, Carol and I went out to dinner, Thai, dairy, Kosher of course. Afterwards, Yechiel suggested we look into the music scene on Sunset. It appeared to be crowded and noisy. We walked through the scene for an hour or so and finally stopped at Mirabelle for cocktails before calling it a night.
As I write there is a storm blowing around us. We may have to deal with strong winds on the road tomorrow. I do hope they blow themselves out before we get into the desert. We are one those “high profile vehicles” that these warning are for. And we have ventured into high winds in the past to our discomfort.
We drove the 30 miles from City of Rocks to Dream Catcher RV in Deming to clear our holding tanks, get warm and decide where to got next. First order of business was to make plans for service at Lazy Days in Tucson to take care of the rest of the warranty stuff that has accumulated. After the call to service we were in a bit of a quandary the soonest we could get in is March 6. We know once they get to work there will be hold ups and we cannot plan our departure until we see the schedule. When to go to LA? We decided to see if an immediate run there would work for Yechiel and Miriam and for us as well. Mapping software shows a hard two day trip and we have three days to arrive Friday afternoon. We tried to get into Malibu Beach RV, but all they had was a partial hookup site that is 42′ by 16′ barely room to open our slides. Called Dockweiler RV under the LAX departure lanes and found a spot on the back row way down from the runway so we may be able to sleep.
We decided that there was no point on rolling today and we did want to drive down to Palomas just over the border from Columbus NM. Palomas is a very quiet border town best known for the Pink Store. We had been told to eat there. We walked on by and found San Jose a couple of blocks from the border, they displayed an Escapee Badge by the door so we decided to give it a try. We were the only customers when we entered and no one came while we were there. The food was quite good and I was embarrassed when the bill for two nice lunches came to $8.00 so I over tipped in compensation and we were out on the street for $11 total and quite satisfied. We stopped by Pink Store and checked out the restaurant. The prices were about double and the menu did not seem any different. I did buy a liter of Tequila and a small bottle of vanilla.
We walked back over the border with no wait, no one was in front of us so figuring out where to walk was a bit of an issue. We decided to stop in Columbus at the museum, every small town has a museum. It had railroad tracks and a caboose and a lot of railroad memorabilia on the outside. The docent (didn’t get his name) greeted us and offered to show us a video of the towns history. We agreed. We were mesmerized, who knew we had landed in the one place in the United States where Pancho Villa had invaded and been driven off in 1909. The first Army Air Corp base was built there and the entire fleet, eight planes were based there. There were also 10,000 men staged there in the event of an attack. I will not regale you with the entire story, needless to say Pancho Villa’s troops managed to cross the border unnoticed, between two guard posts and start attacking Columbus. Two US officers got there troops engaged and managed to set up a cross fire that devastated Villa’s soldiers and drove them back across the border. The story doesn’t end there, but for Columbus it does.
We will be rolling in the morning
Well I guess it has been a while. We stopped here first in January 2003 for two nights on our way west. Then in March 2004 we stopped overnight on our way east. Since then we have stayed in Las Cruces NM about an hour and a half east to visit with Leora and Stuart and their family. As we planned our route last week we realized that Leora would be off with Amalia who is auditioning for music schools. We decided to bypass Las Cruces and City of Rocks seemed like a logical place to head for, at least for a day or two.
On the way from Big Bend we thought we would head for Davis Mountain State Park, but it was 26 miles out of the way (52 miles round trip) for no really good reason. When we got to Marfa, we stopped and thought about what really made sense. It was only 3 PM Central and we were heading west into Mountain time where it was 2 PM. We decided to keep rolling and drove 75 miles west to Van Horn TX. This place makes Fort Stockton look like a thriving metropolis, but there was a KOA with all the facilities we needed. We pulled in and ran laundry and cleaned up everything. This was the first time we had electricity, water and a sewer connection in a week. In the morning we took on some fresh water and ran one more load of laundry before setting out on I 10. we thought we would head for Deming NM, but decided, as we fueled in Anthony TX, that City of Rocks might be fun.
Pulling out of the Flying J, almost immediately we pulled into the New Mexico Welcome Center where we picked up some tourist information. As I browsed, while Carol drove, I noted that Silver City just 40 miles from City of Rocks, was having a Chocolate Fantasia Day on Saturday. Since we planned on visiting Silver City in any event this meant that most of the shops and Galleries would be open. We pulled into City of Rocks and found no available electric connection so we wandered around the circuit to find a likely spot to dry camp.
City of Rocks is the result of a volcano hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is a magma extrusion in the middle of a plain, With the passage of time the extrusion has shrunk and split and the top cover has eroded (don’t take my geology as accurate, but it gives the idea). What remains is a bunch of rock towers with lanes like streets between them sticking up in the middle of the plain. Our site is tucked into the rocks. The temperatures in Big Bend are still in the 80’s day time. Ttoday we woke to wind and 42 degrees. That is as warm as we saw all day. We spent the morning in the coach and left for Silver City at 11:30 or so. We drove through strong winds and what, at first, I interpreted as a dust storm until it started leaving wet on the windshield. It came nowhere near the east coast storm but it was a bit shocking to see snow starting to accumulate on the rocks and shoulders of the road. We found our way into the center of Historic Silver City where most of the galleries and shops are. After parking we stopped at the first gallery we came to and learned that the Chocolate was all by tickets, of course, and the tickets had all sold out several days before our arrival. This saved us from sampling up to 20 chocolates in the course of the day. Many people had bags with them to accumulate the chocolates for consumption at a later time. We were guided to lunch at Diane’s which was wonderful with local product and a varied veggie menu and of course wonderful green chile. We wandered through many galleries and then did some food shopping on our way back to the coach.
At 8:30, as I write, we are not sure we will stay here another day. We will look at our fresh water and holding tanks in the morning after showering before we decide to cross that bridge, also the weather may have some say.
Along the Way
We finally got out of Livingston on the 30th. We set out for a longish day, almost 300 miles. We wanted to get past San Antonio and into territory we had not covered this trip/ Using our various resources we came up with a park in the Passport America website, Castroville Regional Park. Well they no longer accept Passport America, but the people were very nice and we decided to explore the area just a bit. Actually we started out with a walk to the Post Office, 15 minutes away, and returned a couple of hours later. We walked into the town where we found an historic city with roots going back to the 1840’s. There are over 80 homes and other buildings that go back into the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The city is trapped in a loop of the Medina River and does not appear to have grown much beyond its natural boundary. We had dinner at the Alsation Restaurant in the Hotel of the same name. When we arrived there was only one other party of two and when we left there was a different party of two. Slow night. Decent service and the food was better than acceptable and very inexpensive. I had a Louisana Gumbo that really warmed my interior and they prepared a very nice vegetable plate for Carol. The wine is better left unmentioned and the beer list was atrocious – unless you are fond of Bud/Bud Light Miller/Miller light etc.
The next day we decided to return to Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site to see, if possible, the Fate Bell Pictographs and the White Shaman. Fate Bell, named for Lafayette (known as Fate) Bell who was the first rancher in the area, was on tour at 10 AM and Dave who was giving that tour, was also giving the tour at White Shaman at 12:30. Fate Bell is deemed to have more pictographs than any other site and White Shaman has a very distinctive, small array of pictographs. It was more of a special site reserved for ceremonies Whereas Fate Bell was a residential site with many pictographs drawn over others. I will not try to give a lesson on the life, times and meanings of the images. We have been here before and if you are interested some searches focused on the Witte Museum will get you more than I can give without putting me in jeopardy of being wrong.
On Sunday we moved on yet again following US 90 deeper into Texas. We paused in Sanderson for some very expensive diesel ($3.99) avoiding a stop in Marathon for outrageously overpriced diesel ($4.19) on our way into Big Bend. I am grateful for the 100 gal tank and the 800 mile range. I may be able to buy merely expensive diesel the next time Gee Whiz is thirsty. We got to Big Bend in time to set up and greet friends who we had met in Seminole and another couple came over who recognized us from there as well. Party Time!
Monday was our first chance to take Ruby (the Red Rubicon) on the kind of road she was meant for. We drove 26 miles on The Old Ore Road which is described as requiring high ground clearance and some stretches where 4 wheel drive would be helpful. It is a great trip and Ruby carried it off as just another day on the road. As we settled back at the coach several people drifted over and we had an impromptu get together, not Happy Hour in the true sense, but a great way to share our adventures and learn what else we should consider. Tuesday, we decided to take on the big challenge, River Road. It is 51 miles along the southern part of the park, not reachable any other way, but on foot. Half the road rated for high ground clearance and the other half says 4 wheel drive required. With stops for lunch, photo ops and short hikes we spent 5 hours on the drive. The highlight has to have been the Mariscal Cinnabar Works at the northern end of Mariscal Mountain which form the middle canyon of the park, not viewable other than from the river or the River Road. The mine was for Cinnabar which was rendered for mercury for use in the war efforts both World War I and II. It closed in 1946. The works are totally soaked in mercury and we kept our distance as hiked on trails that stayed clear of the buildings. We saw three other vehicles while we were there. Along with one motorcycle that was the total traffic we observed on the 51 miles.
Back at Gee Whiz I rounded up the usual suspects and a neighbor couple who had just arrived for Happy Hour.
Posting now from Rio Grande Village Store – more another day