Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada

After leaving Las Vegas I headed NE towards Hurricane to visit Mac and Susan. I decided to take the back roads rather than just drive up I-15.  This was a very good choice, and usually is over freeways, because my route took me right back into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area,  You may recall I was in the same area down around Bullhead City when I stayed at Katherins Landing.  This is the northern side of the same area which is very large, as is Lake Mead.  Unfortunately Lake Mead is very low and nothing like what I recall from my younger days back in the 70’s when we use to come over from LA and water ski with friends.

So as I am driving along I see a campground sign called Callville Bay.  It is a duplicate of Katherins Landing so I pull in for a couple of days since it only costs me $5.00 a night with my senior card.  I found a good spot and started my process of parking by backing into the spot.  

When I park in a back-in spot I always get concerned because I don’t have someone helping me back in and not hit a tree branch or water spigot of something else.  This time I got my right (blind) side a little close to the bushes between sites and put some fairly obvious scrapes on the back side before I realized my error in judgment.  That pretty much ruined my day but I am learning not to get upset by things I cannot control so I just rolled with it and set up my camp.  I will do what I can do about the scratches later.

My camping spot at Callville Bay

Scenes just driving around

All was well the first night but when I woke up Saturday morning, actually was woken up, to the sound of a bunch of kids next door, I realized I need to go.  This is the same thing that happened at Katherines Landing!  Maybe it’s the brown color of my trailer that attracts kids with parents or parents with kids.  Maybe they see it as a big teddy bear or chocolate bar that gives them comfort when they get afraid at night with the coyotes yelping.  Anyway……time to move on down the road.

BTW….I came up with a name for my new trailer.  Do you remember the race horse that fell apart during the Kentucky Derby, Big Brown?  Well, that is the name of my new trailer, Big Brown Trailer or BBT.  Now I have a Big Ford Truck, BFT and a BBT, just like RV Sue.  Confusing?  Silly?  Probably.  It will get more confusing when I refer to them in my Blog with the initials and not the names.

I am starting to realize the need to seek out more isolated campgrounds or spots to boon dock.  I will eventually get some solar panels installed on the BBT so I can boon dock more frequently.  For now the generator is working just fine. 

Mac, my brother, told me he knows a guy in Hurricane that told him he was going to sell his little Yamaha generator and I am hoping to get a chance to buy it at a fair price.  The smaller generators can get pretty expensive but they are quieter and use less gas that my big one.  However, I will keep both because I can plug my BBT right into my big generator if I want and use the microwave and AC plus it charges the batteries through the converter while I am doing that. I have a peculator coffee pot for use when boon docking and I actually like my coffee perked better than brewed with the electric pot.

So….I am reading one of my favorite blogs, Wheeling It, and the writer, Nina, mentions they are staying at a nice BLM area overlooking the lake called Stewarts Point, about 25 miles east of my location.  I figure if they can park there so can I since Paul and Nina are driving a 40 foot class A motor home they call the Beast, and they boon dock about 90% of the time.

Well I called that one right and I am sitting here in a very isolated spot overlooking the lake.  The view, as you can see in the photos, is pretty darn nice.  One would pay dearly for this view and it costs me zero….nadda….zilch!  I am starting to like this lifestyle better every day.  I just need to learn how to conserve my pennies by boon docking and less driving.  At an average of $4.00 a gallon and 11 mpg I can spend some money rolling down the highway!  I really like driving so I have to watch that carefully if I aim to stay out here until whenever.

Today the wind is really blowing but it is also blowing away the clouds and blue sky is starting to show so I am hoping it will slow down later on.  I would like to sit right here for about a week and check the area out plus visit the Valley of Fire State Park.  It’s a lot cheaper to pay the day use fee than the camping fee.   I figure by then I will need to dump and refill my water tanks if I want to stay longer.  I don't like to bother people much but maybe I will introduce myself to Paul and Nina, the folks that write Wheeling It before one of us pulls out.
My new camping spot
I probably should have parked on the gravel area.  This area is chalky and will make housecleaning a real chore.

I have my own little point for me and Dexter to sit.

View from our patio outside the door.

If I have to hook up and drive somewhere to dump I might as well keep moving, either on to Hurricane or to another BLM location.  The road to this location off the main highway is about four miles of pretty rough road so once a year is enough.  I am still planning on my locations after Hurricane.  I would like to go back over to southeastern Utah and hang out for awhile and see some things I didn't take time to see last year on my way to Glacier and working.  It is still a little early to go too far north.....still cold.

Big storm blowing in now....looks like rain and the temperature is dropping quickly.  Better batten down the hatches!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

John and Dexter On The Road Again

Another Gift From My Angel

You may remember I wrote a blog about a visit I had from a hummingbird while I was in Montana.  My heart told me, as I held that beautiful and delicate little living creature in my cupped hands and felt its heart beating, that this was more than a little bird.

I decided today to read a few verses in the Bible.  The Bible I have with me was Pati’s Bible since she was a little girl.  Pati was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic school before starting high school.  Her Mom and Grandmother were very religious.  I admit I haven’t read the Bible much over the years but I am starting to realize the need for any type of positive support since I lost Pati.  I have been going to church as much as possible and I have been praying more than I ever have.  Anything it takes to give me the strength to get though each day. That is why my blog is named "One Day at a Time" is the only way I can do it now.

All that aside, today I opened Pati's Bible and was scanning through it when I came upon a place where there was something between the pages.  I will show you a picture of what I found. 

Pati's Bible

My Air Force emblem in the Bible

I am drawn to Paragraph 12......
That blue and white US AIR FORCE emblem was one of many that I had during my eight years active duty in the USAF.  It is silk and it was made to be sewn on our uniforms.  Pati had sewed them on for me.  The uniform shirt and pants were tan or khaki.

Anyway…why is this a big deal to me?  Well for one thing that silk emblem has been in that Bible for almost 50 years and I just found it.  I believe Pati put it in that Bible since, I estimate, 1966 when I was sent to Vietnam for a year long tour of duty.  It was a very dangerous assignment being “boots on the ground” in the middle of a war that was escalating rapidly.  The Tet Offensive occurred about six months after I got there in 1968 when the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong attempted to over-run Saigon.  I was stationed at Ton Son Nuit Air Base in Saigon and worked on the flight line when that happened.  It was a very scary time for everyone.

The fact she placed this little emblem where she did could be nothing…simply where she put it with no thoughts about it.  The fact it is on Page 186, Judges 6, paragraph 12 intrigues me.  Was this her way of hoping I was safe and had the Lord with me?  Paragraph 12 states “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” 

I am not trying to overplay this issue or make it seem like something it wasn’t but is sure makes me think I have had an Angel looking out for me since I met and fell in love at first sight with my Pati in January of 1965…….and she’s still watching over me.

Wickenberg and Prescott, Arizona

Wickenberg is a neat small Western town and it’s elevation makes for a lot cooler days and nights than it was in Tucson.  I stayed a few nights in town but only had a spot with water and electric and that cost me $30 a night, which is way too expensive for this ole boy’s budget.  I found some BLM spots outside of town but decided to just head on over to Prescott Valley and see what there was. 

On the way to Prescott I saw an exit for Bumble Bee (?) so I decided to check it out.  The road, all gravel, was a little rough but I was curious enough to keep going about five miles off the highway looking for a good parking spot on BLM land.  I did find a spot with a great view and no one around so I sat there for a few nights.  Unfortunately my battery was getting low too quickly and I didn’t want to get stranded so I packed up and headed to Prescott Valley looking for an RV park.  

I really like Prescott Valley and Prescott but the altitude is 5200 feet and which means thin air in the mornings are around freezing and the days are in the sixties….not bad but a little cool.  The RV park at the fairgrounds was reasonable so I stayed for four days.  That gave me a chance to switch out my 12v battery that would not hold a good charge with the two 6v batteries I have been carrying around since I traded in my old trailer for this 5th wheel.   I am hoping they will hold a charge better until I get some solar panals to help them out.

Prescott had an uppity feel about it that made me realize I don’t want to stick around long.  It is very obvious there is a lot of rich folks living in this area of Arizona.  Not always, but money seems to breed snobs and I don’t like snobs.  One walk around Trader Joe’s and you would understand what I am saying.

Prescott Valley from my RV Park

Cottonwood, Arizone as seen from Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, formally a ghost town but a tourist town now on the side of a mountain.

An RV park near downtown Prescott....very pretty area.
 Westward to Vegas via Laughlin

My brother, Mac, told me about a National Recreational Area called Katherine’s Landing prior to Bullhead City and Laughlin so I checked it out.  It is very nice and the price is right at five bucks a night for dry camping.  They have water and a dump but no electricity so it takes a little planning to stay long term.  The sites are real nice as you can see by the pictures.

Going into Katherine's Landing campsite

Casinos and more....even looks like a paddle boat but it is a hotel/casino.

Nice campsites water or power or sewer.

I checked out Laughlin and it is not for me.  I am not into casinos and people and that is all there is.  They did have an In & Out so Dex and I had lunch and enjoyed that.  They area almost as good as Five Guys but I think Five Guys has the best burgers around.

The big problem with this area is it is HOT!  High eighties and going to be in the nineties the next week.  Even the camp host was complaining about the heat and was glad that he only has nine more days and then he gets to go to Louisiana for a new gig..  With no AC (no power) I am not going to sit here and sweat so I called it quits after two nights.  I might add that it was a weekend and there was a young couple with four young kids next door tent camping and they just about drove me crazy!  They left on Sunday and I was out of there too….mainly because of the heat...not the kids.

So, here I am at Nellis AFB, home of the Thunderbirds, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The RV park was full so I had to take a water and electric spot, which is really crappy, if I wanted to stay longer.  I chose to stay only four days here.  I really don’t think I will go down to the strip or the clubs and deal with all the crowds.

I am going to lunch today with my nephew, Wade and his wife, Laurie.  Wade is a police officer here and I haven’t seen them since last year.  His Dad, my brother Mac, lives in Hurricane, Utah, about a hundred or so miles up the road.  That’s my next stop. 

Well.....that was a good day and I really enjoyed spending some time with Wade and Laurie. They have a beautiful home here and are enjoying life with their three cats.  I will always stop in for lunch when I come this way.

Tomorrow I think I will go to see the Red Rock Canyon area.  I have already gone through the Thunderbird Museum and I have some nice shots of the F-16 jets flying over constantly. 

As seen standing outside my RV at the camp...daily flyovers.

Well, Red Rock Canyon didn't happen.  A cold front (not really cold) came in with really high winds all day today so I decided to just hang out at home.  I did a little shopping at the base commissary and realized that our fighting men and women are really getting ripped off if they buy anything at the base commissary or exchange.  I bought a grilled chicken today and it cost $6.99.  The same chicken, much larger, at Costco is $4.99.  Gas at the base pumps is 20% higher than outside the gate. If you do buy groceries at the commissary and think you are getting a deal, you need to factor in a sur-charge of 5% for some odd reason. They have posters all over saying "tax free".  Not really.

I will say the best thing this country gave me, other than the pride of serving 26 years of service to this country, because I love my country, which is consistent with the fact the Murray family has given over 150 years of military service to this wonderful country, is my health care benefits.  I could not have made it without the health care benefits I received after retirement.  The cost of trying to get ahead of Pati's health issues, all brain related over a nineteen year period, must have been in the millions of dollars.  For that I am eternally grateful.

Tomorrow morning I leave here heading North.  I am going the slow route by Lake Meade and my first stop will be Valley of Fire State Park for a few days to see the unique rock formations etc. that is supposed to be there.  

Happy Trails ..............

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dragonfly Trail - Silver City, NM

After researching it on the Internet I decided to hike the Dragonfly Trail before leaving town.  It is four miles and no real dramatic up and downs except to the stream bed where the petrogliphs are located. 

Not being in the shape I was after spending three months hiking and working in Montana, I must admit I felt fairly tired after the hike but it was worth it. I always find historic issues of interest and imagine myself back in the time the event or issue occurred. Of course those people many years ago didn't miss what they never had as I try to put myself in their shoes, or moccasins, in this case.

The trail.

The reason for the hike.

I am not sure what this is.

Westward Ho!

I left Silver City and headed west towards Tucson on Thursday.  It felt good to get to a lower elevation and breathe normally.  The air at 6000 feet is a little thin to one who is not used to it.  

I decided to try getting into the RV park at Davis Monthan AFB and lucked out.  It is a first come, first serve base and usually full.  They had six spaces open so I was able to get one and I took it for a week with the option of extending.  I always feel secure on a military base plus it feels comfortable and has everything I need tax free.

F-4 Phantom.  The stars show four migs shot down over VietNam by the pilot.  I worked directly with these aircrafts in VietNam in photo reconnaissance and intelligence.  

This is the U-2.  Used for photo reconnaissance.  When I was in the USAF  I used to process the film from their missions in a clean lab environment.  A speck of dust could ruin the whole mission.

The weather is wonderful and even a little warm. Yesterday it hit 79 degrees but today, Saturday, it is supposed to stay in the mid seventies.  Dexter and I are going for a long drive today just to see the areas around Tucson, especially the Oro Valley north of the city. 

I don't plan to do anything that would cause me to leave Dex in the truck so he gets to go with me, which he really enjoys.  I bought a little twelve volt fan for him last summer for those times when I do leave him in the truck for short periods but not when it gets too warm.  He is twelve years old now and could get overheated quickly so I don't want to take the chance, especially down here in this bright sunshine.

Too Many People

So....what is the big deal with Oro Valley, Arizona?  I read all about this area and had a completely different vision of what it was before I saw it with my own eyes.

I drove forever with about a million other people up the one road leading north through that area and all I saw was more people and malls and businesses. I don't get it.  It must be cooler and probably nice once in the many neighborhoods of houses I could see from the highway.  Three lanes of highway going nowhere and we are all going there at the same time!  Houses and people everywhere!

I then drove all over Tucson and it wasn't very interesting either.  Just another big city with nothing more than warm weather to offer.  One of my favorite small cities is still San Antonio, Texas.  I am still keeping my eyes open for an opportunity to have a winter homebase in the Hill Country.

I didn't take a bunch of pictures of folks I saw around town that cause me to take another look because they are probably just fine folks....and I am living in another generation. 

I even went to church today, Sunday, at the chapel on the base.  I was disappointed that the minister was wearing jeans and acting like some of the people I see on Facebook!  There were young folks playing musical instruments and dressed like they just got out of bed....even wearing flipflops.  What has happened to respect!  This is God's a little respect please.  This service was called Evangelical and the Gospel service was at 11am......maybe I went to the wrong service!

I need to get a grip on my attitude.....starting to sound too grumpy and judgmental and I know that is not a healthy thing.  I just need to take everything "one day at a time"......right?

Other Thoughts

Today the wind blew very hard all day and it was cooler than normal.  I just hung around the rig and read and relaxed and planned a nice evening meal.

I saw a recipe on Facebook on how to cook cabbage so I decided to make grilled cabbage and grilled chicken breasts.  I have to brag that I made a really good meal! I slathered the chicken with mayo and mesquite seasoning and garlic powder and Parmesan/Asiago cheese and the cabbage with butter and all the same seasonings with bacon and wrapped in foil and it was wonderful!

One of the best things about being on the road is that grilling seems to be the norm when thinking of cooking dinner.  I have a three burner stove and an oven and a microwave but the grill always seems to do the best job.  I cooked on the propane grill tonight but I also have a little Weber and charcoal and it is best with steaks.  I seem to do a lot of "foil" meals.....put a bunch of stuff in tin foil with some olive oil and spices and cook it over the grill. You can't go wrong.

Driving South to Nogales

Since it didn't work out too well going north I decided to drive south to the Mexico border.  I did stop at two beautiful old missions on the way....both date back hundreds of years.  I think some of the most beautiful old missions are in California although San Antonio has some very nice missions too.

I made a loop and my return from Nogales was on the east side of the mountain range through Patagonia and Sonoita.  The terrain was completely different and more grassland than sagebrush.  Sonoita is a beautiful area but a little isolated.

When I leave here I am heading north to Wickenberg and on over to Prescott Valley.  Prescott is at 5200 feet and will be much cooler or even cold at this time of year.  I will keep you posted.

Happy Trails.......

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Westward Ho!

I left Austin, and my good friends Fred and Judy, the best hosts in the world, last week and headed west to a small town in the Beg Bend area of Texas called Alpine.  There was a Cowboy Poetry and Crafts fair going on and my friends from Glacier Park, Montana, Bob and Diane were going to be there.  I wanted to head towards Tucson and warmer weather so it would not be far out of my way to stop and have lunch and a beer.  So I did and it was really nice to see them again even for a short lunch.  Here are some pictures of that area.

Officer's Barracks at Ft. Davis

Office Housing at Ft. Davis

Hospital at Ft. Davis

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

I considered staying around Alpine for awhile but changed my mind and headed north towards Guadalupe Mountains National Park at the Texas – New Mexico border.  It was interesting and now I can say I have been there and done that but it was a little disappointing to someone who has lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 35 years.
I took a few short hikes and then decided to drive the BFT seven miles back into the park to see an old ranch house built in the stagecoach days of the 1800’s.  The Butterfield Stage Line ran through the area and there was ruins from one of their stations so I thought it would be interesting.  Big mistake!  All I can say is I can’t imagine how anyone could ride on a stagecoach in that terrain back in the old days.

The road, dirt or rock and deep ruts and washes, got worse as I drove.  I should have known better because the brochure said it would take over an hour to go seven miles!  Well, the BFT got a workout and a challenge but prevailed and made me proud.  I did scrape some thorn bushes and may have a hard time getting some scratches out but they may just add a little character to an otherwise perfect truck.  Actually the guys in Montana gave me a hard time saying I had the best looking truck in the state and suggested I break the windshield and get a little mud on it.

Anyway, I had to stop about a mile from the house but I did take some pictures to prove I did it.  I won’t do that again.

Guadalupe Peak...highest point in Texas....8749 feet....a big deal to Texas since it is so flat!

The road I wish I had not taken.

This was posted along the same seven mile impossible road I took, and I'm complaining how rough it was!

That blue house in the far distance was my destination but I didn't make it.

The Weather Turns to Worms!

After a couple of days, I woke up and it was 22 degrees and very foggy and frozen!  I sure didn’t expect that to happen so I bundled up and hooked up, after breaking ice to get in the truck and to the hitch and headed out.  Once I was down the mountain it got sunnier and warm so I headed west towards El Paso, thinking I would spend some time on the base at Ft. Bliss.  Pati and had stayed there years back and it was a real nice RV park.

However, once I got into the congestion of the big city I just couldn’t bring myself to stay there.  I continued west on I-10 with visions of clear and sunny mid-seventy weather in the beautiful Oro Valley north of Tucson on my mind.  Again, being a vagabond with no real roots or commitments, I got to Deming, New Mexico and saw a sign for Silver City, New Mexico, so I took it to get off the freeway and away from all the 18 wheelers that drive me nuts.

I stayed in the City of Rocks State Park prior to getting to Silver City.  It is in the middle of nowhere and it is thought the rocks were tossed here from about 180 miles away during a volcanic eruption a very long time ago.  

That one rock is just sitting there on top of the bigger one.

I had been to Silver City years ago with Pati in our RV and also when I was working for Sprouse- Reitz Stores because they had a store in that town.  I recalled it was in the mountains and pretty nice.  I was right….it is pretty nice and at 5900 feet up can claim to be in the mountains.

So, here I am.  I am staying in a neat western theme RV park right in town and pretty darn comfortable.  I’ve been here three days now and read everything I can about the area and I think it will be a good place to hang my hat for a month or so if I can get a space next week as promised.  As much as I like driving and seeing new places, my budget doesn’t allow that luxury. 

If I stay in a place for a month, my daily rent is low and I use less gas, usually.  I  prefer to boon dock as much as I can but I need to install my six volt batteries and make the generator more convenient for daily charging them so I don’t get stranded.  I don’t have solar so I depend on my batteries and generator for power when not hooked to shore power.  

My big problem is I like to keep moving.  After about two weeks somewhere I am ready to hit the road for new adventures.  So I may not stay here a month but I will try to see as much as possible in the next week and then decide.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Yesterday, Dexter and I drove about 45 miles north to view the cliff dwellings at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  The road was very curvy and slow and it took over two hours to drive it.  It was worth the trip and the steep hike to get up to the dwellings to see them.  Every time I do something like this I realize how old I am getting and how much I need to keep moving if I want to keep moving down the road!  I suffered with some leg cramps last night from the ordeal but it was the cost of doing something I had not done in awhile and seeing some homes in the cliffs that people lived in over 700 years ago! 

The Gila Cliff Dwellings consist of five caves containing over 40 uniquely shaped and sized structures.  The people of the Mongollon culture lived there from the 1280’s through the 1300’s, and then disappeared.  It is thought that only 8-10 families lived in the caves at any one time and were only used for a generation.  It is speculated they left to join other Mimbreno cultures to the north or south.

As viewed on the trail leading up to the Cliff Dwellings

Approach to the second cave dwelling

Inside looking out

Inside the largest cave dwelling

Looking up from the trail to the last cave dwelling

Silver City And The Surrounding Area

I have some other day trips planned, actually planned out for me in all the brochures I have describing the area.  In addition to the day trips, this town has a lot of things going on. 

The downtown area, called Old Town, is really an old town from the 1800’s but all the buildings and shops are in use and well maintained.  There are a bunch of small restaurants, even a brewery, all in walking distance.  I read the town has 32 art galleries also.  It is home to Western New Mexico State University, which is right near the old town.

Main street thru Old Town
Very colorful everywhere

This is a side street downtown.....small businesses everywhere.

Use of color like in Mexico
I am sure I will find plenty to do while here but I also want to clean up my new 5th wheel, which I need to name, and the BFT (Big Ford Truck for late readers).   I hope the weather stays as it was after this storm passes, mid sixties and sun is good, as long as the wind does not get too high.  Maybe I can get back into shape while I am here so I can do some hiking in Arizona and Utah the next few months.

It is Sunday afternoon now and the storm passed and it is sunny with beautiful white clouds in a very blue sky.  It is still cool but will warm up in the next few days.  Dexter and I took a long drive into the mountains today to a small town called Glenwood.  It was a bust and a waste of gas but the drive was real pretty.

I checked online today for space at Catalina State Park north of Tucson and it is booked solid for months so that plan is out.  I do know of a BLM area southeast of Tucson that could work for a week or I can drop in at Davis Mouthan AFB and try to get a spot. They usually don't take reservations and rotate in and out so it is hit or miss there.

For now, I have three more days here and I plan to go to Fort Bayard, an old but still active Calvary Fort from the 1800's and check it out and get some pictures of some of the copper mines/pits that this place was built around.  I found out also that Billy the Kid was born here and his mother is buried in the cemetery adjacent to my RV park.  

Also.....Geronimo was born in a town up the way called Pinos Altos.  This area was the heart of the Apache Nation.   I drove through it going to the cliff dwellings and plan to go back on Wednesday and have lunch at a place recommended.  It is a real small mountain town but has a lot of history. More to come.

Tuesday, March 4th

The weather here is staying overcast and cold so I am going to leave on Thursday for Tucson and see if I can get a spot at the air force base rv park for a while.  I am tired of the cold!  Today I went to Fort Bayard and it did not have anything worth posting about so I drove to a trailhead called Dragonfly that one of the folks in the park told me about.  There are lots of Indian petroglyphs about two miles in so I wanted to check it out.  Tomorrow I am going back to hike that trail before I leave here so I guess I won't be having that burger and beer at the Buckhorn in Pinos Altos.   I guess I will just have to grill my own turkey burger tonight.  For now.....time to relax, read and take a nap.