Monthly Archives: April 2014

Dinosaur Footprints

Yesterday, Donna and I put on our hiking shoes and went for a walk. Donna had looked at Google Earth and saw what looked like hiking trails across the road from the RV park. Before we left, I walked to the office and asked about hiking in the area.The woman there told me that most people hike across the street on the trails Donna saw. She said she’d never hiked there, but heard tales of dinosaur footprints fossilized in the hills.

We crossed the street late in the morning and followed the trail. It was directly across from the RV park entrance. We hiked down into a wash then started on an uphill path. I put my hand on Donna’s arm and said, “Stop!” There was a snake sunning himself in the trail a few feet in front of us. It was a harmless western patch-nose. I told Donna that snakes are cold-blooded. Since the temperature was in the low 70s, he probably wouldn’t move all that fast. I stepped forward to take a picture of it. He took off like shot and disappeared into the brush. So much for my theory of cold-blooded reptiles being slow at that temperature.

The trail meandered up and down. Sometimes we were hiking in the bottom of the wash, other times we were climbing the hillside. There were many wild flowers blooming along the trail. I didn’t try to photograph them because the were all moving with the wind. I didn’t think my Samsung Galaxy would capture a good image. Along the wash, we were walking under eroded limestone walls.

Lime stone cliffs

Limestone cliffs

As we climbed up a hill, I saw motion on my right. We watched as a rock squirrel, startled by our arrival, scrambled up the steep hill side. He disappeared up in the cliff above us. Rock squirrels are the largest squirrel species in Arizona. Unlike most squirrels, they are omnivorous. They will climb in trees and ocotillo cactus to feed on buds and they will also catch and eat birds, rodents and reptiles.

Bottom of the wash

Bottom of the wash

There were trails that crossed the wash. We climbed out of the wash on one of the trails. It led us up to the top of a ridge where it suddenly ended. We took a look around and walked back down. We followed another trail up to a hill top. From there it looked like the trail went on for miles. We turned back.

Donna taking a look over the ridge

Donna taking a look over the ridge

It was nice to be able to get away from civilization by taking a short hike across the road. Once we were back in the hills, we didn’t hear anything but the sounds of nature. I wish we saw more wildlife, but it was an interesting hike nonetheless. Donna enjoyed all of the wild flowers. We didn’t find any dinosaur footprints. I’m not sure if I would recognize fossilized dinosaur footprints if I saw them.

Later, I rode the scooter over to the town of Camp Verde. I went to Basha’s grocery and picked up a case of water and some Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon.  On the way there, I passed signs for Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. These are national monuments. We’ve visited Montezuma Castle before. It’s a 20-room cliff dwelling. We may go there again today.

I made reservations for us at J&H RV park in Flagstaff. We’ll go there tomorrow and stay for a week. It’s been windy here, but the wind is supposed to calm down again tomorrow. Flagstaff weather looks good for the week ahead.

J&H RV Park should be interesting. They have strict rules. No smoking on any part of the property. No motorcycles or ATVs. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. I’m thinking it will be a quiet place. We’ll leave the scooter in the trailer and rent a car.

Last night I grilled a pork tenderloin that Donna prepared with a chili-maple syrup glaze and sweet potato hash on the side. It was excellent!

Chili-glazed pork tenderloin with sweet potato hash

Chili-glazed pork tenderloin with sweet potato hash

I start packing the trailer this afternoon. We would like to be out of here around 10am tomorrow. So I doubt if you’ll hear from me tomorrow.

Ditched Our Plan

Yesterday, Donna and I left our dry camping area around 11:30am to hike and check out camping areas. We wanted to stay in the area until Thursday, then move up to Flagstaff for a week. Donna needs to fly to New York for a media tour on Monday morning and return on Tuesday night. She’ll fly out of Flagstaff.

We walked down to the site we saw the night before. An ATV tour guide company unloaded four ATVs at the site. We walked on down the road. A half mile in, we found a spur road on the left and walked down it. There was a great looking site a few hundred yards down the road, but someone was already there. We continued on and found a few more open spots, but they weren’t very level or weren’t large enough for our rig.

We finally found a site that was fairly level and large. It was near a radio-controlled (RC) airplane field. A guy driving a pickup truck told us there would be a large RC meet at the field that weekend. We wouldn’t stay that long, but there would probably be activity at the field leading up to the big meet.

We walked back up the road. We had walked downhill to the site and when we climbed back up the hill, we could see what looked like a site off to our left that we could access from the main road. We decided to cross a field and go directly to the site, rather than walk all the way back to the main road.


As we got closer, we saw that it wasn’t a site at all, it was just a wide junction of another spur road off the main road. We walked down to the spur road and continued our search. We found an ideal site. It was a flat, round clearing with a tree in the center. It was large enough for us to pull into and circle around the tree to set up. We thought we were set.

We walked back up to the main road. That’s where our plan was dashed. There was a sign there that said the area was closed. No camping, no motorized vehicles. Something to do with watershed reclamation.

We walked a little further down the main road. We came to a point where the road dropped into a gulch. We couldn’t see any likely areas down there, so we turned back. We stopped and looked at the first site with the ATVs again. Donna decided to take my cell phone and hike back to the RC field and see how the Verizon coverage was. We didn’t think to do this the first time we were there. I went back to our coach with her phone.

When she came back, she said she wanted to cross highway 89A and look at a place where we saw other rigs camped. When she came back she said it was a large, flat graveled area with toilets at a trailhead. There were five rigs there including two with horse trailers. She said there was room for one more rig.

We packed up and pulled the slides in, still undecided about which site to move to. We thought we could cross the highway and pull into the site and see if we liked the set-up. If not, we could return to the site with the ATVs.

Right about then, a Dodge Ram pickup pulled into our site. It was Mark and Emily Fagan ( We stepped outside and greeted them. They were in the area riding their mountain bikes and knew where we were camped. We stood outside and chatted. It’s always great to run into friends on the road.

Mark told me about a couple of other boondocking sites in the area. One was about half a mile away. Then he told me about Beaverhead Flats Road. If we boondocked there, we would be close to the town of Oak Creek. We could also go to Sedona from there. Our current location has us isolated. Highway 89A into Sedona would be a seven-mile run up a steep grade with a 65mph speed limit. I thought that we would be pushing the scooter too hard to ride two up under those conditions.

I told Donna I thought we should go to Beaverhead Flats Road. I wanted to be able to go into town and not be so isolated. Later, Donna told me she felt a little uneasy about ditching our plan and taking off into the unknown again. But, she didn’t say anything at the time. By the time we got rolling, it was after 3pm.

We drove back down 89A about five miles to the Cornville exit. We followed the Cornville road for several miles before we found Beaverhead Flats Road. Beaverhead Flats Road took us toward AZ179. Mark mentioned a pullout at a scenic overlook. We thought we could stop there and have a look around. When we reached the overlook, about six miles up the road, I didn’t pull in.

I pulled over onto a wide shoulder area. I didn’t pull into the scenic overlook because the entrance was a narrow road that disappeared around a hill. Without knowing the layout, I could end up in a parking lot too small for me to turn around in. We had another issue to contend with as well.

I haven’t driven this coach enough to know how accurate the fuel gauge is. Our gauge was showing less than half a tank of fuel. This is plenty of fuel to drive for two hundred miles or more, but the generator will not run once the tank is about a quarter full. This is a safety feature to keep from running out of fuel while dry camped in a remote area. The last quarter tank is for the engine only. All motorhomes running generators off the main gasoline or diesel fuel tank are set up this way, at least as far as I know.

The Beaverhead Flats Road ended one mile further on at a stop sign at the junction with AZ179. We turned left and drove toward Oak Creek. I wanted fuel before we dry camped anywhere. We saw a ranger station and wanted to stop for more information on the area. Once again, we were thwarted by a small parking area.

We hit a roundabout at the edge of town and turned back. We didn’t know what to do next. It seems that we’re not very good at picking out boondocking spots on the fly. It’s difficult if you don’t know the area and don’t know what you may be driving into. On Beaverhead Flats Road and on AZ179 there aren’t many places where a big rig can pull over and have a look around.

We pulled over just before AZ179 met I-17 to discuss our next move. We looked at our RV park guide and used the Points of Interest (POI) feature on the GPS. We threw out our dry camp plan and drove to the Distant Drums RV park near Camp Verde. Donna has work to do and we needed to settle in somewhere for a few days.  It was after 5pm by the time we were parked in our site. Thursday we’ll head up to Flagstaff.

We grilled bacon wrapped petite filets with corn on the cob and grilled tomato for dinner.

Bacon wrapped petite filet

Bacon wrapped petite filet

Today, I’ll make reservations for us at a campground in Flagstaff.


Getting Turned Around

Yesterday was a travel day, so I got to work in the morning and didn’t post. I had the scooter loaded Saturday evening, but didn’t get much else done due to the cold, windy weather. When I say cold, I mean in the 60s but with a stiff wind.

I started by pulling the wheel covers, then checking and adjusting tire pressures. Donna went out for a walk while I was doing this. When she returned, I cleaned the windshield and rear view mirrors. I waited until she showered to dump the holding tanks. I was in for a surprise.

I had dumped the tanks on the previous Wednesday. I was off my usual weekly schedule, due to us changing our plan and extending our stay. No problems at all on Wednesday. Sunday morning, when I pulled the handle on the blade valve for the black tank, there was an odor. Then there were two two small streams of black water spouting from the top of the sewer hose. Yuck! Something had punctured the top of our sewer hose. It only lasted a few seconds since the tank wasn’t very full and the pressure quickly subsided.

As I flushed out the black tank, I used the outdoor shower wand to spray off the area around the punctured hose.  The two holes were spaced a few inches apart. The were about 1/16″ in diameter. I don’t know what caused this in the top of the hose. The hose was fine four days earlier.

While the tank was rinsing, I saw our new neighbor with the Alpine Coach that pulled in a couple of days ago. I walked over and introduced myself. His name is Ron. He’s owned his 1999 Alpine Coach since he bought it new in 1998. He and his wife have traveled to 49 states (including Alaska), all of the Canadian provinces, all of the states in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. They’ve been on the road full time since they bought the coach.

Like most Alpine Coach owners, he’s very enthusiastic about the brand. He was one of the original six founding members of the Alpine Coach Association. He and his wife worked as travel guides for RV tour groups. That’s one of the reasons they’ve been to so many places. He currently has about 189,000 miles on his coach and it’s still going strong.

Once I finished with holding tanks and cleaned everything, I threw our sewer hose into the dumpster. We hit the road around 11:30am.

Our route took us back through Wickenburg to the Carefree Highway. I’ve noticed that some people can’t stand driving behind a motorhome, no matter how fast the coach is going. On one stretch of the Carefree Highway, I was driving along at 58 – 60 mph where the speed limit was 55 mph. A guy in a pickup truck pulling a boat made a risky pass. He passed us over a double yellow line where side roads join the highway. Once he was in front of us, he gained about a hundred yards on us before he pulled off at the Lake Pleasant turn off.

We turned north on I-17 and drove up to the Verde Valley. This route climbs into high desert with a series of uphill and downhill sections. I was really pleased with the way our coach handled the grades. On the steepest climbs of six or seven percent, we easily maintained 50 to 55 mph. On the downgrades, I used the engine compression (Jake) brake to keep our speed in check. On steep descents, the low setting on the Jake allowed the speed to slowly creep up. When I switched it to the high setting, it reduced our speed. I played the switch back and forth between low and high to adjust our speed. I never touched the brake pedal. I remembered Ron telling me that at 189,000 miles, he still had the original brake pads.

We turned west on AZ 260 and drove to the WalMart on the outskirts of Cottonwood. We stopped there at about 2 PM. I bought a new Camco Rhinoflex sewer hose and few other RV supplies there.

Donna and I were hungry. We made a rare visit to a fast food place. We ate at Carl’s Jr., Donna had a turkey burger and I ate the western bacon cheese burger. We talked about staying overnight at the WalMart or moving on to boondock on public land. We decided that Donna would shop for groceries while I went online to look for free camping opportunities.

Highway 89A from Cottonwood to Sedona runs through the Coconino National Forest. I saw a few places that looked promising, but it’s hard to tell just by looking at a map or Google Earth how good the roads are. We turned off the highway at Spring Creek Ranch Road. This didn’t work out as we hit a dead end at a gate. Luckily, there was a wide turn around area. We’re always concerned about getting into something we couldn’t get out of.

We continued north and saw a few campers on a small hillside. We pulled into the turning lane and came to a stop before entering. There were two motorcyclists on Honda Goldwings, pulling small pop-up camper trailers exiting the dirt road. Donna jumped out and met them at the stop sign. She asked them whether we could maneuver our rig in there. They advised against it, saying it was very rough. That was why they turned around and were leaving.

We continued north, past the Red Rocks State Park Lower Loop. At the upper loop turn off, I turned in towards the park. I thought it was called a loop for reason. I figured if it’s a loop, we can drive through and take a look. We continued down a narrow, winding road. The scenery was spectacular with views of the famed red rocks. But the only turnouts were small and uneven. We dropped down into a narrow valley and came to a Y intersection. The road on the left led to a recreation area, but there was a “No Outlet” sign and another sign said it was closed at the river crossing. This didn’t sound good. We stayed on the loop to the right.

On the GPS map, it looked like the road would lead us back to the lower loop road and back to the highway. We came upon a rural residential area as the road became narrower. I saw a guy walking on the side of the road and I stopped. I opened my window and asked him if the road looped back to highway 89A. He said it did, but the pavement ends and it climbs through tight switchbacks. I asked him if he thought we could do it in our rig. He was skeptical.

Now our mission was to find a way to get turned around. We weren’t having much luck. Every side road was a short, narrow spur. When we reached the end of the pavement, the road curved sharply to the right. There was another road angling off to the left at the curve. I pulled into the road on the left. Then I backed the trailer into the curve on the dirt road. It was a tight, tricky maneuver, but I had us turned around and heading out of there.

By now it was after 5pm. I was anxious to get off the road. We turned back south on 89A. If we went any further north, we would be in the town of Sedona, where we not be able to park. We pulled off at an RV park on the side of the highway. It was a membership park, so we continued on. We saw an RV off to west in the national forest. We pulled off at forest service road 525. Right away we saw a large turnout. I passed it by and continued down the road. The pavement ended.

There was another smaller turnout ahead. I pulled into it. We debated whether we should continue down the road or turn back and pull into the large turnout we saw. We decided to turn around while we had the chance and park in the large turnout. We could explore later on foot. I couldn’t turn around in the smaller turnout, I had to jockey back and forth, taking care not to hit anything with the trailer before we were out of there.

We found a fairly level area in the large turnout and called it a day. It was beer-thirty for me. With a beer in hand, we took a walk down the road. We found a perfect spot about a quarter of mile from where we turned around. We thought about moving, but it was almost sunset by then. We decided to stay put and explore more of the area in the morning.

Here are a couple of views from the area where we dry camped.

Red and white cliffs in the distance

Red and white cliffs in the distance

Another view

Another view

We started watching a new (to us) series recorded on the hard drive. Last night we watched two episodes of The Americans before we turned in.

Our site at sunset

Our site at sunset

Today, we’ll hike around the area and decide on our next move.

Cactus Garden

Yesterday was a laid back day. In the morning, after I posted to the blog, Donna went for a hike. While she was out, I took care of a couple of chores that needed to be done before we head out of here on Sunday. I cleaned and lubed the chains on our bicycles. The chain on my mountain bike picked up a lot of grit from the dusty trails around here.

I used to have a complete bicycle mechanic tool set from Park Tools, but they were stolen along with our cargo trailer by those Dirty, Rotten Thieves. I didn’t replace the complete set, but I did buy a Park CM-5 Cyclone Chain Cleaner from Amazon. This makes getting the chain clean a breeze. I use a 50/50 Simple Green and water mixture to scrub the chain. Then I follow up with plain water to rinse it clean and dry the chain. Then I lube it with DuMonde Tech chain lube.

Once I had that job done, I hung the bikes in the trailer. I need to straighten out a few more things in the trailer before we can load the scooter.

Brett Miller posted a comment in yesterday’s blog about the cactus garden here at North Ranch RV Park. After lunch, we walked over to office to ask about it. It turned out to be a little park at the end of the street where we are parked. It’s on the north end of the street, which is basically a dead end. We hadn’t been down there and didn’t know about it. It’s a beautiful garden with many of the plants labeled. We strolled through and I took pictures. Many of the plants were blooming. You’ll want to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Chenille prickly pear blooms

Chenille prickly pear blooms

There are two large, old saguaros in the park. This begs the question (again). Why do these saguaros survive here while only one saguaro stands in the desert for miles around the park? These saguaros were here long before the park existed. We have a few theories, but that’s all they are.

There’s an ancient, giant saguaro called Methuselah in the park. A placard claims it dates back to 1600. I’m not sure how that was determined. The Arizona – Sonoran Desert Museum says saguaros can live up to 150 – 200 years. Having said that, I’ll add that Kevin Hultine, a plant physiologist at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden says that a typical saguaro can live up to 200 years but adds, “We are not entirely sure of the true age of the largest individuals.”

Methuselah - an ancient saguaro

Methuselah – an ancient saguaro

There’s another old saguaro called Sheba. The placard says “circa 1870”. This could very well be true. We saw a Gila woodpecker nesting in Sheba. You can see some flowers blooming and others ready to blossom on the ends of the “arms.”

Sheba - another old saguaro

Sheba – another old saguaro

Some of the prickly pear cacti had pretty blossoms, especially the Santa Rita prickly pear cactus with its yellow flowers.

Santa Rita prickly pear

Santa Rita prickly pear

The park is very clean and nicely laid out. The paths wind around the cactus displays with groomed gravel over a hard packed base.

Saguaro Park

Saguaro Park

Santa Rita (right) and purple prickly pear (left)

Santa Rita (right) and purple prickly pear (left)

Cowtongue cactus

Cow tongue cactus

The wind picked up in the afternoon as we were enjoying the cactus garden.

Windblown Donna taking a break

Windblown Donna taking a break

At the other end of the park we saw a sign warning about an active javelina visiting the park to forage.

Javelina spotted in the park

Javelina spotted in the park

We didn’t encounter javelina, however we did see a couple of interesting lizards. The first was a desert spiny lizard. He was trying to hide beneath a prickly pear cactus.

Desert spiny lizard

Desert spiny lizard

He's there in the circled area

He’s there in the circled area

The other lizard we saw was a Western whiptail. He didn’t let me get too close. As I closed in for a photo, he would scramble away.

Sonoran desert whiptail

Western whiptail lizard

Last night we watched a movie called Waterproof, starring Burt Reynolds. What a flop. No wonder I never heard of it before. Donna will return it to the park library, where she borrowed it.

The wind was still blowing at bedtime. I battened down the hatches in anticipation of more wind and rain. The wind woke me up a few times as the coach rocked. The rain came early this morning, but moved out of the area by 9:30am.

We have a project for later today, then I need to pack the scooter and prepare to leave tomorrow. We’ll head over to the Camp Verde – Cottonwood area first. Then I think we’ll go to the Grand Canyon.

Lonesome Saguaro

While Donna was out riding her bicycle yesterday, I rode the scooter down to Wickenburg. I went to the Basha’s grocery store to pick up a few things. I brought bungee cords with me so I could secure a case of bottled water on the back seat. I had everything loaded nicely and I made an uneventful trip back.

Scooter loaded under seat, on rear seat and in front

Scooter loaded under seat, on rear seat and in front

For lunch, Donna made tomato basil wraps filled with scrambled eggs, black forest ham and sharp cheddar cheese. I wanted to go for a bike ride, but thought I should wait for a while after eating. I walked over to the clubhouse to return a book I read and select another one. The were five guys there playing music. One guy was clearly the leader. He played a weird four-string acoustic guitar through a small amp. They played old country/folk music. Pretty basic, simple music, but they sounded good. The guy with the four-string guitar sang really well.

By the time I got my gear on and headed out on my bike, it was 2pm. I went out to the same trailhead as before, but this time I took a different trail at the four corners crossing. I saw a trail called Lonesome Saguaro. I wanted to see if a saguaro actually existed out there. I found it a short time later. This is puzzling to me. The saguaro looks to be at least 50 years old, judging by its size and the arms starting to form. The terrain it’s growing in doesn’t look any different than the surrounding desert. I wonder how this lone saguaro survived here when no other saguaros are to be found in the area.

Lonesome saguaro

Lonesome saguaro

I rode out to Martinez Wash. The ride to the wash was difficult. It had a few short, steep drops and climbs. Most of the drops into little washes had soft sand or decomposed granite in the bottoms. A few times, my front tire dug in too deep and I had to hop off the bike. I made the return trip past the cattle and water tank. I saw tracks in the soft sections made by one or two other mountain bikes. Now that I think about it, I think it was one bike going out and back. The tracks looked pretty squirrely through the soft stuff.

I’d waited too late in the day to ride. The heat was oppressive and I wasn’t feeling well by the time I got back just after 3pm. I took it easy for the rest of the day.

Donna saw a new neighbor pulling into a site behind us. She said it looked like an older coach, but she didn’t know what it was. I looked out the window and saw another Alpine Coach. This one is an older single-slide model. That makes five Alpine Coaches currently here in the park. Before coming here, I had only seen two Alpine Coaches – one in San Diego when we still had our Gulfstream and one in Usery Park.

Last night, Donna and I grilled chicken breasts and skewered fresh strawberries. Donna made a balsamic reduction to put on the chicken and drizzle over the strawberries. Grilling the strawberries brought out the sweetness. This sweetness combined with the balsamic reduction was a great combination. This was the first time we tried this dish. I’m sure we’ll have again at some point.

Grilled fresh strawberries and chicken breasts with balsamic reduction

Grilled fresh strawberries and chicken breasts with balsamic reduction

Donna remarked yesterday how this place is growing on her. It’s so quiet and the hiking and mountain biking paths are easy to access. This morning I awoke to the sounds of doves cooing and quail calling. It’s not a bad place, but it will be too hot here next week.

Today, the forecast calls for a high of 77 degrees with winds from the southwest picking up to more than 20 mph. There’s a 50% chance of rain by tomorrow morning. It should calm down and clear up by the time we pull out on Sunday.

Stuff in the Desert

We extended our stay here at North Ranch Escapees RV Park until Sunday. That will get us through the wind forecast for tomorrow and the cold front over the weekend.

I got my mountain bike out of the trailer and went for a ride. I haven’t been riding since I hurt my shoulder. I thought I could ease back into it with a short ride. I wanted to check out some of the trails Donna has been hiking.

The trailhead is accessed through a gate at the east end of the park. There’s a sign there showing which way to go to various points of interest. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Trailhead sign

Trailhead sign

There are a few more of these signs at trail intersections in the desert. The trails are wide enough for use by ATVs. The surface is mostly good with some soft, sandy sections and few sections of loose rock.

Wide trail

Wide trail

I rode along a ridge to Inspiration Point. The view from there was a wide desert vista. I took pictures looking different directions from the point.

Looking east

Looking east

Looking north

Looking north

Looking northwest

Looking northwest

There’s a lot of wide open BLM public land. I’ve said it before and it’s evident in these photos; the desert is never as flat as it seems. At mid-day you don’t have visual cues such as position of the sun and shadows to give you a sense of direction. It’s easy to get turned around out there.

I turned at an intersection and the trail lead me to a large wash. The trail down into the wash was very steep. I could see where the trail led out of wash on the other side, at least a half-mile away. I saw cattle in the brush down in the wash.

The big wash

The big wash

I decided against crossing the big wash. I didn’t want to overdo my first bike ride after a month of rest. I turned back and followed a different trail. Sometimes you find unexpected things in the middle of nowhere in the desert. I came across bee hives set up on the trail.

Bee hives in the middle of nowhere

Bee hives in the middle of nowhere

I didn’t want to get too close. I could see and hear bees buzzing around the hives. I’m still bothered by the bee sting on my right arm from last week.

I turned around and found another trail to follow. This one led me to another unexpected find. Parked behind some brush was a Komatsu bulldozer. It looked like it had been sitting there for awhile, judging by the cobwebs inside.

Bulldozer in the desert

Bulldozer in the desert

I wondered who would leave a piece of expensive equipment out on public land and why? I rode on.

My next find was a herd of open range cattle. Ranchers get grazing permits on BLM land and the cattle roam free. Eventually, cowboys will round up the cattle and haul them to market. The cattle had ear tags and brands on their hides to identify ownership.

I don’t think they’ve seen too many people on bicycles. They stared in my direction, then most of them began moving away. Three stood their ground and looked like they wanted to charge. I wasn’t too concerned about the steers, but I saw a large bull lying in the shade of a tree. I won’t challenge a bull. I’ve told the story of my experience with a bull here.

Open range cattle

Open range cattle

In the photo you can see the water trough for the cattle. A little way down the trail I came across an odd sign. Camping is allowed on this section of BLM land. However, the sign stated that it was illegal to camp within a quarter of a mile from any waterhole or trough.


Further along the trail, I came across another water source. This was a large cylindrical water tank that was tilting like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Water tank

Water tank

From there I continued on and looped back to the trailhead. I was out for about an hour. Lots of interesting and curious finds out in the desert. One thing I didn’t find was saguaro cactus.

Saguaro cactus are found throughout the Sonoran desert. It’s the only place they’re found. When you don’t find them in the Sonoran desert, it can only mean one thing. It gets too cold in that particular area during the winter. If the temperature drops below freezing for more than three or four consecutive nights, the saguaro will die. This area must have cold nights in the winter due to the elevation.

In the hilly desert to the northwest of here, you can see saguaros growing abundantly, then they disappear half way up the hillside. That marks the frost line of the hill.

In the afternoon, Donna looked out the window and said, “Our neighbors are gone.” I looked out and sure enough, Dave and Lynda’s Alpine Coach wasn’t there. But they left a bicycle near their picnic table. I went to the office to see if they could contact Dave and let him know he left a bicycle behind. They told me Dave and Lynda didn’t leave the park. They extended their stay due to the weather forecast and moved to a different site. They found an open site with trees and shade.

I went to their new site and chatted with them. The shade may be handy today, but I don’t think the trees will be desirable if the wind is as strong as expected tomorrow.

This morning I’ll take the scooter to town for a few provisions (beer). I think I’ll take another bike ride in the desert later.



Blowin’ in the Wind

The wind blew out of the south yesterday at a sustained 20 mph with occasional gusts. It rocked the coach a time or two, but wasn’t a big deal. Our intention was to wait for the wind to die down and move on to Kingman today and then to Lake Mead.

After looking at the latest weather forecast, we’ve ditched that plan. Lake Mead will have sustained 40 mph winds on Friday. We would have to pull the slides in and hunker down while the coach takes a battering. A cold front is forecast to move through the area over the weekend, followed by temperatures in the mid-90s next week. This doesn’t sound too appealing.

We’re looking at our options again. Our first thought is to book another four nights here and wait out the stormy Friday and cooler weekend. We’ll scratch Nevada from our current plan and head towards Flagstaff. This will probably mean we’ll backtrack along the Carefree Highway through Anthem and stop at Camp Verde. I wouldn’t try to take AZ89 over Yarnell – it would be shorter, but it’s not a big rig friendly road. There are tight switchbacks as you descend into Prescott. I remember switchbacks so tight that there were 10 mph speed advisory signs.

We have a few days to ponder our course. Meanwhile, it’s analysis paralysis. I want to avoid wind, extreme heat and cold. Donna may need to fly to New York on May 5th and, if so, we need to be somewhere near an airport. We’ll have a week’s notice or so for that. She’s already booked a flight out of Denver at the end of May for a conference back in Phoenix.

This time of year, weather is hard to call in the southwest. It’s typically windy in northern Arizona and southern Nevada. The desert is heating up. The higher elevations have comfortable daytime temperatures, but places like Flagstaff can still be below freezing overnight.

The other thing we need to think about are the sights we want to see. Our original intent was to go through Zion National Park. Maybe we will scratch that as well. We can go to the Petrified National Forest, then head north and go to Moab. There’s so much to see.

We’ll sit tight and I’m sure a plan will come together over the next few days.

Today, I will get my mountain bike out and ride some of the trails Donna has been hiking on.



Vulture Mine Shortcut

Donna started her day yesterday with a bike ride here in the park. She rode around the park and through the streets, trying to get some mileage in. She kept passing a guy on a golf cart. He would raise his hand as she went by and she thought he was waving at her. Finally, as Donna made another pass by the guy, she could see he was motioning for her to slow down. She called out, “I’m only doing 16 miles per hour!” The speed limit on the roads is 20 mph. Maybe 16mph looks faster on a road bike.

After Donna’s bike ride, we took the scooter to town. I turned off US93 at Vulture Mine Road. This was a shortcut with little traffic. We stopped at El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant. Our soon to be full-timing RV friend, Brett Miller, recommended the place and it had good reviews.

When I try a new Mexican place, I usually order the chili verde. This is one of my favorite dishes and I can compare the food to other favorite Mexican restaurants. I didn’t do that this time. I allowed the waiter to talk me into the daily special, which was chicken enchilada casserole. This was basically chicken enchilada filling between layers of corn tortilla and cheese. It was constructed somewhat like a lasagna.

Donna ordered the tricolor enchiladas which consisted of three enchiladas – a chicken enchilada with green sauce, a cheese enchilada and a beef enchilada with red sauce.

Tricolor enchilada plate

Tricolor enchilada plate

The chips were good and they served them with two great salsas and an excellent bean dip. However, I don’t think they were on their “A” game on this day. The chicken enchilada casserole was bland and made with too much cheese. Donna’s tricolor enchilada plate was good, but they had the sauces mixed up. The chicken enchilada had red sauce and the beef enchilada had the green tomatillo sauce. I would go there again, but next time I’ll try the chili verde.

We rode the scooter downtown and parked next to the City Hall. We wandered around and looked at clothing and boots in the western wear shops. Wickenburg is a quirky old west town, but it’s not too touristy. The western wear and saddle shops cater to the real cowboys working on the ranches in the area.

Double H hat shop - Wickenburg

Double H hat shop – Wickenburg

Wickenburg is the oldest Arizona town north of Tucson.  Henry Wickenburg discovered gold here in 1863. The Vulture Mine became the richest Arizona gold producer ever. Many of the historic buildings in the town date back to that era. We were told at the Chamber of Commerce information center that tours of the mine can be taken on Saturdays.

On the way back from Wickenburg, I stopped at the NAPA Auto Parts store to buy a solenoid to replace the sticking accessory solenoid I wrote about a couple of days ago. I didn’t see any part number on the old solenoid when I looked at it. I showed a picture of the solenoid and described its function to the guy at the parts counter. He said he knew what we needed.

He came back with a ST89 solenoid rated for 36 volts. I thought that seemed odd, but he was very sure of himself. I figured since this was a continuous-duty application, the higher voltage rating may be correct.

When we returned to the park, we saw Mark and Emily Fagan’s rig in the dry camp area ( Their fifth wheel trailer was set up but their Dodge Ram 3500 truck was not there.

We came back to our rig. I turned the chassis battery switch off and disconnected the accessory solenoid. Once I had the old solenoid out, I saw it was stamped 88-24V on the bottom. I looked up specifications and found the correct replacement would be an ST88 24-volt solenoid. The ST89 36-volt solenoid wouldn’t work. Usually you need to apply nearly half of the rated working voltage to trigger the solenoid. I didn’t have enough voltage available to trigger the 36-volt solenoid. I put the old one back in temporarily and decided to wait until morning to take the ST89 back and exchange it for an ST88.

We had the air conditioner running. It was the hottest day since we’ve been here with a high temperature of 92 degrees. We’re on a 30-amp service so we can only run one air conditioner. I closed the bedroom doors and we had the front air on. We relaxed and read books for awhile.

Donna saw our neighbor, Lynda, outside and went out to talk to her about campgrounds at Lake Mead Boulder Beach. While she was out, Emily came over. The three of them chatted outside until after dark. Emily came inside with Donna and we caught up on their travels. Mark was napping back in the trailer. He had a tough day dealing with a punctured tire on the trailer. He was concerned about the trailer being overweight, so they came here to get the axle weights. There are three Escapees parks where you can always get your rig weighed. They weigh each wheel individually. That way you can determine if you should re-balance your load and also know what the correct tire pressures should be.

This morning, Donna went out hiking in the desert. While she was doing that, I made the 13.5 mile ride back to the NAPA store. On the way out, I saw Mark and Emily with their trailer at the weigh station. Their trailer weight is fine. Mark will move a few things around for better balance, but he doesn’t have to worry about overloading the tires or axles. They’re heading out this morning to Camp Verde and on to Sedona.

On the way back, I stopped and took a photo of one of the memorial signs for the 19 firefighters killed last year in the Yarnell wildfire.


I installed the new ST88 solenoid when I got back a little while ago. I’m still scratching my head though. The new solenoid is acting like the old one. It sticks and I have to tap on the case to make it engage. I’ve checked voltages and grounds and can’t find a problem. That will keep me going for awhile today.

EDIT: I worked the solenoid by turning the key to the accessory position and tapping on the solenoid. I repeated this several times. Now it’s functioning fine. When I turn the key to accessory, the solenoid engages without me touching anything other than the key. My theory is that internal friction was causing it to hang  up. Working the solenoid burnished whatever was causing the friction and now it operates without any issue.




Delay in Congress

Donna went for a hike early yesterday morning. She took a trail out of the east end of the park and hiked out into desert. She crossed a wide wash where she saw a small snake. From there, she continued on until she spotted a steep, flat-topped ridge that she figured might have a nice view. She left the trail to scramble up to the ridge. On the other side of the ridge was a steep cliff and down below, she saw some people dry camped on the BLM land. They didn’t see her, but she heard a woman ask, “What happened to my mimosa?”

Getting back to the trail created a challenge for Donna. Looking back as she prepared to make her way to the ridge, she looked for landmarks and noticed two ocotillo shrubs flanking the trail. They were the only two octotillos around – or so she thought. She found them on her return and started heading back. Then she noticed or rather did not notice any footprints in the sandy trail ahead of her. She was on the wrong trail.

After some backtracking and much debate with herself, she decided to continue on, hoping that this trail would lead her to the wash she crossed earlier. All the while, though, she kept looking to her right to see if there was another trail because she had a strong feeling that she should be over there. Sure enough, she spotted the other trail across a wash and made her way to it. There she found her footprints.

All in all, she figures she hiked about four or five miles. She has a new app on her phone that counts steps and mileage (Striiv), but it must have stopped calculating when she was taking photos and only counted a portion of it. She was out for about an hour and a half.

I couldn’t pull in the over-the-air signal from the Phoenix NBC broadcast, so I went to the clubhouse and watched the Detroit Red Wings game on cable there. The Boston Bruins won and the series is now tied 1-1. That’s what you hope for in a playoff series when you have to start on the road. If you can split the first two games against the home team, you’re in pretty good shape heading back to your own home ice. We’ll see how this plays out. Boston had the most points of any NHL team during the regular season and will be tough to beat.

Yesterday I wrote about the permanent lots here available to Escapees members. Here’s another photo showing an improved lot with a house on it.

Permanent lot at North Ranch RV Park

Permanent lot at North Ranch RV Park

Donna and I took an evening stroll through the park. The weather cooled after 6pm and the evening air was agreeable.

Sunset behind our site

Sunset behind our site

We thought we would pull out of here today and make the 100-mile run to Kingman before continuing on to Lake Mead. Plans have a way of changing.

The weather forecast is calling for high winds tomorrow. Both Kingman and Lake Mead will have fierce winds. The forecast calls for 20mph wind here tomorrow. I think our best option is to stay put in Congress for two more nights.

Today, we’re thinking about taking a ride on the scooter back to Wickenburg. We can kick around downtown and have lunch there.

Bees and Bikes

Yesterday was a fairly quiet and lazy day for me. In the morning, I unloaded Donna’s bicycle from the trailer. This isn’t a good location for riding a road bicycle. The park is just off AZ89 on a straight, narrow stretch of two-lane highway with a 65mph speed limit. Too dangerous to be out there on a bicycle.

Donna rode laps of the park, zig-zagging her way through the streets. The North Ranch RV Park has three distinct sections. One area has gravel sites for dry camping. The problem with dry camping here is that generator use is banned. If you have a sufficient solar system, it’s not an issue. It wouldn’t work for us though. The next area is full hook-ups for RVs. It’s also on gravel and that’s where we are. The largest section of the park consists of privately owned lots on paved roads. You have to be an Escapees member to buy a lot.

People do different things with their lots. Some are just covered with gravel and have RV hook-ups. Some are landscaped with concrete pads and hook-ups. Most of them have a structure of some type on them. It may be a small storage shed or garage. In some cases they have built small houses on the lot.

A private lot in North Ranch with a small dwelling and million dollar Newell motorcoach

A private lot in North Ranch with a small dwelling and million-dollar Newell motorcoach

After lunch, we rode the scooter up AZ89 to the small town of Congress. There isn’t much there – an antique store, gas station, Dollar Plus store. As we were bombing along on the scooter, a bee bounced off of my right bicep. He left his stinger behind. I pulled the stinger out as we rode into town. We cruised through the back streets to see what else we could find. We saw a public library – would that be the Library of Congress? We stopped at the antique shop and poked around. They also sold ice cream. Donna had a cup of chocolate ice cream and I had a cone with rocky road ice cream.

Another five or six miles up the highway is the town of Yarnell. This is the site of a tragic wildfire. The fire started from a lightning strike on June 28, 2013. On June 30th, a team of 20 firefighters called the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew from nearby Prescott, Arizona, went in to fight the fire. The wind kicked up and the fire shifted, trapping  19 of the firefighters in a box canyon where they perished. There is a very good article describing the fire at this link. It’s written by Stacie Solie, the same author that wrote this comprehensive account of the devastating mudslide near Darrington, Washington.

I didn’t want to ride up the hill to Yarnell. The traffic moves too fast on AZ89. I wanted to come home and put Benadryl cream on the bee sting. We rode back home and went to the book exchange library. I dropped off a book I finished reading and picked out another one. Donna also found a book. We relaxed and read for the remainder of the  afternoon.

Last night, I grilled garlic shrimp on skewers. Donna served it with zucchini sauteed with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic, topped with parmesan cheese.

Grilled shrimp

Grilled shrimp

Donna also baked an almond torte. Her sister, Linda, sent her the recipe. It was the first time she baked in the convection oven. The torte was delicious.

Almond torte

Almond torte

Donna is going to make chili in the slow cooker today – not exactly a traditional Easter dinner, but it sounds good to both of us. I want to watch the Formula One race and the Red Wings playoff game in Boston. This is problematic for me. Both telecasts are scheduled for 3PM EDT. The race is on NBCSP which I get on the Dish Network and the game is NBC local broadcast, which I get over the air. My current set-up doesn’t allow me to record. I need to buy another hard drive that I can format to allow Dish Network recording.

Meanwhile, it’s a beautiful morning here. It’s 68 degrees this morning. The weather guessers are forecasting a mostly sunny day with a high of 82 degrees.