Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Arriving at Palm Springs and Thoughts on Thousand Trails and Other Discount Programs We Use

At Palm Springs Thousand Trails, Palm Desert, California...

Well, if perfect winter weather is why we're touring the Southwest, we haven't been disappointed.  The weather here at Palm Springs is much like that at Yuma--in the seventies during the day and in the fifties at night, with mostly blue skies.

Palm Springs is the first Thousand Trails park in which we've stayed other than Lake Conroe--where we've stayed many times.  

Thousand Trails Palm Springs











Our Site at Thousand Trails Palm Springs

We have checked out other TT parks, like Medina, near Columbus, Texas, and Bay Landing, near Bridgeport, Texas, but the latter two didn't meet our needs in terms of full hookup availability, site conditions or cell service.

We are like most RVers, I think, in that we like to stay in nicer parks but, being a trifle cheap, we prefer not to pay full price. That's why we always look for discounts. That was our idea when we signed up for a Thousand Trails Elite membership. It's hard to beat staying in Palm Springs or any other TT park for two or three weeks at little or no cost. Of course, that doesn't take into account the membership initial cost and annual fees. It's all a matter of how much you use the membership; if you use it a lot, you can't help but save a bunch of money. 

The problem with Thousand Trails (hereinafter referred to as TT), for us, is that many of their parks do not meet our standards that I mentioned above--full hookups, nice sites and good cell service. When I mention nice sites, I'm talking about fairly level sites that are gravel or concrete--not dirt. Dirt is a no-no because dirt+rain=mud. We don't do mud. We don't boondock, either; we are, unapologetically, not into roughing it--not even a little bit. We love beautiful scenery and all the wonderful creatures that live in the outdoors, but we have no desire to mingle with them. I'm pretty sure this is in line with God's intention; otherwise, He wouldn't have given most of them the desire to kill us. 

We also don't tolerate well the demonic little bloodthirsty insects that somehow know when we appear outside. With the first blip we make on their radar (and it's probably not a small blip), they immediately begin a nosedive toward us--clearly not fearing what could be a suicide attack--due to the possible payoff of what must appear to them as two well-marbled ribeyes--their ultimate targets of opportunity. 

Many of the TT parks, especially on the west coast, are old parks that are not big-rig friendly and haven't been maintained all that well. Phannie just barely fits into her space here at Palm Springs, and maneuvering among the palm trees is very tight. In fact, when we leave here, I'm going to have to ask two of the RVers across the street to move their tow vehicles, or I'll never be able to make the turn to clear the palm trees where we are parked.

Fortunately, out of the 88 or so TT RV parks across the country, there are a small number that are acceptable, given our criteria, so we limit ourselves to these and forget the rest. Even with these restrictions, we think we come out slightly ahead because of the free stays for weeks at a time. There is also a TT membership provision that gives pretty good discounts at Encore properties and--for an additional yearly fee--discounts called the Trails Collection at about 200 other parks. We also get an automatic "in"  with Resort Parks International (for a modest fee after a year), another discount camping outfit. 

At Lake Conroe TT, which is, I suppose, our "home" park, we almost always get a very nice concrete site that rivals most of the nicer parks in the country, and we've noticed that improvements are slowly being made in some of the other TT parks after years of neglect under changing ownership. Some of these other owners were unscrupulous asset-flippers who skimmed the income and invested nothing in the parks. Lifestyle Equity Properties, the current owner of TT, seems to be more interested in improving things, but there is much work to be done. 

If you are thinking about a TT membership, you need to take into account your requirements, as most of the parks are not up to the standards we prefer, and many are found in remote locations, which also usually don't work for us. If your standards are a bit prudish, like ours, I would probably advise against it. But, if you aren't such prima donnas and are willing to stay in remote, rustic areas--like real honest-to-goodness campers do--it can be a surefire money-saver.  

We also use Passport America 50-percent discounts fairly often, and we'll stay in low-cost government parks (federal, state, county, municipal, etc.) that fit our requirements, although there aren't many of these that measure up. Escapees also has some discount parks that we use from time to time. The bottom line is this: We can almost always find some kind of discount park that we can tolerate, but it does take some significant research and planning, and these things don't come easily for retired and lazy people like me and, for fulltimers, the job never ends. Once we find a good park that's a real bargain, we'll probably stay there for a while and come back when we're in the area. There are other discount programs, like Coast-to-Coast, but we haven't run across any of their members who could give us the lowdown. And we're not even counting the Good Sam or KOA discounts, as they are only 10 percent. We use them from time to time, but we don't consider that much of a bargain.

Once in a while, we just have to bite the bullet and pay through the nose to get into a decent park in high-priced areas. That'll be the case when we get to San Diego; the reasonably priced parks either fail to meet our requirements or are too far away.

We've got more to report on Palm Springs, but that'll be in the next post.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw


"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Goodbye to Yuma

At the Palms RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona...

We have certainly enjoyed our stay in Yuma and the near perfect weather, with daytime temperatures in the seventies, low humidity and endless clear blue skies. We see the weather reports from other parts of the country that are snowbound with single-digit temperatures, and we can't help but feel a little sorry for those, including our friends, who have been caught up in that. We know they would like to be in a place like this, and we miss them.

Yuma has been on the grow, with the addition of a fairly new mall and a beautiful new city hall that contains something of particular interest to me, but more on that when we go inside.





As in previous photos in these posts, I found the landscaping at Yuma City Hall artfully done and appropriate to the desert setting. I knew there are many varieties of cacti, and there is no shortage of these on display here. I really find them interesting and beautiful.

Here's what caught my attention immediately upon entering the lobby of city hall:



Hanging from the ceiling was an airplane, a 1949 Aeronca Sedan named "City of Yuma." This was a particularly awesome sight to me, since this airplane is very similar to the 1949 Aeronca Champion, the first airplane I ever flew, and in which I soloed in 1963, a seminal event that developed into a career as a pilot that has been deeply enjoyable and rewarding. In fact, I have the good fortune still to do some flying even now, some 57 years later! 

The Sedan model of the Aeronca airplane was a four-place version, while the Champion held only the pilot and one passenger, seated in tandem rather than side-by-side. It was also flown by a control "stick" rather than a wheel or "yoke" to move the elevator and ailerons. Such fond memories I still have of that exciting event so long ago!

The "City of Yuma" was placed in this hall to honor a record-breaking endurance flight in 1949, wherein two pilots flew the airplane around Yuma without landing for 47 days. Now, you're probably asking, "How did they do that?" Well, in as few words as possible, the pilots, when new supplies were needed, flew in slow flight over a runway, the airplane's speed matched on the ground by a 1948 Buick convertible, from which fuel, oil, food, drink and other essentials were passed up to the pilots three times a day. That's over a thousand hours aloft for those pilots, and it brings to mind all kinds of questions, especially as to how they took care of the human factors that would naturally be involved. If you would like to read an interesting article about how and why the attempt was made, you can find it here.  

Located below the airplane in the city hall lobby is the very 1948 Buick convertible that was used to race along underneath to supply the airplane:



The event was sponsored by the Yuma Jaycees, who wanted to bring attention to the federal government about the near perfect flying weather at Yuma. The national attention brought about by the event did, in fact, result in considerable federal money subsequently being spent on a U. S. Marine flying base and a military proving ground here in Yuma. The stunt was re-enacted some years later (but not for 47 days), and here is a photo taken during the re-enactment. 



So, we add this to our list of cool things we wouldn't have known, had we not made the decision to be vagabonds for a while--by coincidence, starting our fifth year as such this very month!    

After several pleasant encounters with Ray and Cindy, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we had the good fortune of being contacted by Dan and Peggy, more bloggers we've read for years. They invited us to go with them to one of their favorite Yuma restaurants, the A&R Grill, where I had a sublime southwest chile cheeseburger, and Sandy had some very tasty fajita tacos: 



We knew from their posts that they liked the Yuma area so well that they purchased their own RV lot here. They invited us out to see it, so we did, not knowing that we got there on Dan's golfing day, so we missed him. Sorry, Dan, but we'll see you next time. Peggy was nice enough to show us around:




Theirs is a huge lot, and they have a nice storage shed at the back. There's even room for a friend's RV to be stored there for a while. In the poorly-composed photo above, I just barely included the edge of Dan's Big Green Egg cooking center. Cooking everything imaginable in that huge smoker, he is a master BGE chef, and they even take it to rallies to be with other members of their BGE groups. I really didn't know what a big deal it was until I saw Dan's and read some of his stories. You can find Dan's blog here.

With this pleasant experience, we're going to say goodbye to Yuma, ever impressed with its status as a winter playground for snowbirds. We were going to drive to Quartzsite since it is nearby but, instead, we think we'll stop there on the way back from the west coast after things have died down a bit from the Mecca-like RV swarm that occurs there every January. We're not all that fond of crowds, anyway, but we're going to stop there, so we can say that, as RVers, we have been to Quartzsite at least once, even if we are a little late to the main confab.

From here, we're headed to Palm Springs, California, for a couple of weeks, so we'll continue to report from there on our winter trip in the great Southwest. By the way, we've already started planning our summer trips, one of which will include Colorado and Wyoming beginning in mid-July, and we already know we'll be meeting up with friends along the way. In fact, we'll be joined by some good friends in their rig, doing a caravan with us for much of that trip. We don't often get to do that, so we're really excited. We'll have more news on that adventure when the time gets closer.



Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw


"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Sunday, January 19, 2020

More From Yuma, and I Get My Ears Thumped Again

At the Palms RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona...

Well, it was only a few days ago that I got my ears thumped after a post and now, here we go again. Imagine my embarrassment when I learned that Ray and Cindy Warner of Ray and Cindy's RV Travels blog have a home here in the very park of whose inhabitants I was, um, a little critical. Not only do we love to meet fellow RV bloggers, but Ray and Cindy invited us out for lunch at an outdoor taco joint that had some killer shrimp tacos. We enjoyed it immensely, and then they invited us into their beautiful home for a tour! There never were two nicer people, so, basically, I ate crow for lunch along with my tacos!  Why do these things happen to me?  That's Cindy and Ray are on the right below:



In the days prior to learning about Cindy and Ray, we were told by friends that we needed to go to the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. "It's more interesting than you might think," they said. I'm sure I rolled my eyes a bit but, hopefully, not enough for them to notice. I don't know...it's just kinda hard for me to get excited about touring a prison. It's certainly not a place I would wish to go as an inmate, so why would I want to pay to go visit one? Yet, it's the number one attraction for Yuma in Trip Advisor, so there we went.

Now an Arizona state park, I have to say that the Yuma Prison complex is very well done. Two really decent photos in the previous post were taken there, those being the shots of the cacti and the old wagon. The place is steeped in history, having been built in 1875 as the Arizona Territorial Prison, way before Arizona became a state in 1912. During its 33-year lifespan, the prison would house over 3,000 men and 29 women for crimes ranging from murder to polygamy and even adultery. Only one inmate was ever hanged there--for murdering another prisoner.  The prison was under a constant stage of construction to enlarge it, mainly using the labor of the prisoners, who were building their own cells. It was known among prisoners as the 'hellhole' because of the unbearable summer heat they had to endure.


State Park Entrance


Prison Main Gate
Main Cell Block. Each cell housed six inmates.
I found a cell door open and, ever curious to go along with being slightly stupid, I decided to go inside. It had a dirt floor and six bunks, stacked three on each side of the cell, with a single chamber pot for relieving six guys. (Ugh!) Of course, Sandy would close the door once I was inside but, fortunately, she couldn't lock it; she just held it shut. All it took to get free was to hand her my American Express credit card. Works wonders, that thing.



If a prisoner got out of line, he would be placed in a cage outdoors, where he would have to endure either boiling sun or rain, with no protection from either:



Prisoners who were really incorrigible were sentenced to weeks-long stays in this same type of cage, except it was housed in a totally dark room carved out of a mountain at the edge of the complex. Such prisoners were stripped to their underwear and fed bread and water. There were no provisions in the cage for the removal of bodily waste. It is said that several inmates went insane from this experience; I don't doubt it. Here are some photos of the dark cell:


Dark Cell From the Outside
Entering the Dark Cell


Only the bottom of the cage remains.
The light is from the open door we entered, which would normally be shut.
With the door shut, the only light in the room would be from this small vent in the ceiling.

The building housing the museum was quite interesting, since I haven't spent much time around prisons, thankfully.  Here are some of the things that piqued my interest:



The notice above was posted in Yuma by the territorial authorities in 1905. Looks like they meant business, and I guess the ACLU wasn't around then. By the way, the word "mack" back then meant "woman chaser." 



Strange things interest me, I guess. The photo above shows a kit containing catgut, used by surgeons for sutures during operations in the day. Although the prison was known as the 'hellhole' by prisoners, it actually had fairly up-to-date medical and dental care for the inmates. I had heard of catgut before, but I really didn't know what it was. Actually, it was not made from cats at all, but mostly sheep intestines. Their use for suturing wounds was desirable because they were pliable and strong and, within a week, they would be absorbed into the patient's body, if he lived through the operation. The problem with using catgut was the difficulty of sanitizing it so as to avoid creating an infection within the patient--one that was often fatal. Catgut eventually fell out of favor due to this problem. 



The old photo above jarred me a bit, because I remembered that my mother had given me paregoric as a child as a treatment for diarrhea and probably other ailments. It was available over the counter back then, but began to be regulated around 1970, as it contained opium and 45 percent alcohol; to my surprise, it is said to be available by prescription even today. It's big brother, Laudanum, was similar in composition but contained 25 times as much opium, so it made a fairly effective anesthetic, as I suppose the prisoners taking it didn't really care what the surgeon was doing to them. 

Laudanum was widely available by the 1800s and was highly favored in social circles for its mood-enhancing properties--perhaps it was the 'cocaine' of yesteryear.  Medically, it was prescribed for all sorts of things, including headaches, cough, gout, rheumatism, diarrhea, melancholy and "women's troubles." Being unable to have women's troubles because of my gender--the one I had at birth--I'm not going to speculate about what these troubles might be.  However, being married to a woman, I have a vague idea. But I see no reason to risk speaking of them here.  So, if any of my readers suffer from this malady, you should know that Laudanum may still be available by prescription and could make you forget those troubles. One caveat though--Laudanum is highly addictive, and with the recent attention to the opiod problem in the U. S., it probably won't be around for long, and it may have been banned already. Both drugs were used widely in treating inmates in Yuma Prison.

Also in the museum were a ball and chain, placed on the ankles of prisoners who gave trouble, especially those who tried to escape. I hadn't seen one of these before, and I don't think I would enjoy wearing it:



Something really sobering was this hangman's noose, used only once during the history of the prison. The photo below this one is a blowup of the card visible in this photo. It describes the grisly details of preparing for a hanging:




Also in the museum was a Gatling gun, the first I had seen. It was never used in the Yuma prison, but it was an interesting piece--the predecessor, I suppose, of the machine gun. It fired a clip of thirty 50-caliber bullets by turning a hand crank to rotate the barrel assembly. Oddly, at the time of its invention, it didn't receive much interest from the armed forces, and the Lowell Company, it's maker, went bankrupt. 



There's a large guardhouse outside the prison that now serves as a lookout point for visitors:



Here's a shot taken from the observation deck, in which you can see a small segment of the Colorado River that passes alongside the prison:






I couldn't resist getting a photo of this pigeon (at least I think it was a pigeon; if not, maybe you ornithologists can help me out) guarding this section of the Colorado River. He/she? let me get quite close before puffing up, which I supposed was to appear more fearsome. Or, maybe it was just mimicking the old fat guy taking its photo, who knows? 

The prison closed in 1909 due to overcrowding and fell into a state of disrepair until it was rescued from destruction by the citizens of Yuma. It became a state park in 1961. I have to say, it was worth the six-dollar entrance fee.

I'll have more from Yuma in the next post but, right now, we are loving the beautiful weather out here.



Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw


"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



Thursday, January 16, 2020

Yuma - For the First Time

At Palms RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona...


Before I get into my observations of Yuma, I would like to express my condolences to the family of fellow fulltiming RV blogger George Yates, who wrote  Our Awesome Travels and lost his battle with cancer a couple of days ago. Although we had never met, we had become cyber friends, and I wish we could have met in person. The RV blogger world is not a large one, and he will be missed as a true gentleman and active writer among our group. May God's comfort be yours, Suzie.

Now, as to Yuma:

I guess it's odd that we've traveled as much as we have all over the U. S. and abroad but somehow never made it to Yuma, Arizona, yet it's true. Furthermore, had it not been for a super special introductory rate offered by the Palms, we may not be seeing it now. But here we are, and I've already made some interesting observations. 

First of all, Palms RV Resort is a luxury RV park, for sure--you know, one of those hoity-toity places where you have to send a photo of your rig if it's over ten years old. Well, Phannie's age is certainly beyond that but, apparently, they didn't think she looks like a junker in the photo I sent them, so they said, "Come on down!" 

Now, I must tell you that I have mixed feelings about this kind of snootiness. I understand that high-end parks cater to a certain kind of clientele--usually ones with deep pockets--many of whom really don't like having unsightly rigs around them, spoiling the neighborhood. In order to keep the well-heeled coming back, parks like this one let these customers call the shots, so I get it; that makes some business sense, even if it is off-putting to most regular folks. I must confess that I would prefer not to have parked next door to me some rig that is a truly dilapidated eyesore and perhaps even unsafe to be around. I couldn't help but wonder who or what might be inside.

On the other hand, it is a bit of a downer to realize that Phannie could be thought of as elderly to the point of being unwanted when, to me, she is a well-loved classic that has aged gracefully. I have cared for her to the best of my ability, overdoing the manufacturer's recommendations in some cases. I give her frequent washings and waxing when needed. In turn, she has served us faithfully, with nary a hiccup from her Caterpillar engine and Allison transmission in nearly a hundred thousand miles. I just don't know if we could ever part with her. She's family.

There's one more thing that we've noticed about luxury RV parks: They aren't very friendly. I'm not talking about the staff, who are very friendly and helpful here. I'm talking about the other RVers, many of whom seem to go out of their way to avoid eye contact and certainly don't come over to visit, as if we are alien creatures from another galaxy. Maybe it's the Texas license tags, and they are afraid of all the guns they assume all Texans have. Well, that may be a valid assumption, but we really go out of our way to avoid shooting visitors. 

It says a lot that we have met some of our best friends at discount parks or ones that are mediocre, at best, where no one cares about the age of your coach but instead looks for the size of your smile and the warmth in your heart. Those are our kind of people. In any case, we certainly won't be returning here to the Palms, so we'll leave a few photos to remind us of what we're not missing:






How about this for a casita?
Okay, that's about enough of Camelot; let's get back to Yuma itself. I now know why this is such a haven for snowbirds, and I'll talk about that in a minute. But first, here's a screenshot from Google Earth showing, from what I would guess to be about 25,000 feet, an uncountable number of RV parks along I-8, the main artery feeding Yuma.



There are a few housing additions in this photo but, if you zoomed in, you'd see that most are parks with RVs, park models and other cramped-together snowbird roosts. Outside the perimeters of the photo are many more. So why the mass migration influx in the winter? 

It's the weather, of course; and what great weather it is! Almost every day boasts clear blue skies with temperatures in the seventies, cool nights, with very low humidity. And, unlike the Rio Grande Valley, it's not often windy. For example, look at the photo below--specifically at the flag in the center, drooping down the flagpole. This was a very typical winter's day in Yuma, with the temperature a perfect 72 degrees. Having said that, this is not a place I would want to be in the summer. That's why the snowbirds blast out of here in the spring as if they're fleeing a hurricane. It gets HOT!



And I don't even need to mention the beauty of the rest of the photo above, especially the cacti juxtaposed against the bricks and stucco--a look that east Texas forest creatures like me find particularly attractive because it's so different from where I grew up. This landscaping was obviously professionally done, but many homes, businesses and government buildings have similarly attractive landscapes. Here's an old wagon used in landscaping at the Yuma Prison State Park, about which I'll cover in another post:



Well, there's a good bit more I have to share about Yuma, but that'll appear in the next few days.



Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw


"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Leaving Texas - I Get My Ears Thumped

At Monte Vista Resort, Mesa, Arizona

It's not often that I get smacked for one of my posts but, I must admit, I deserved this one. A few of the folks leaving comments on my last post took me to task for my characterization of U. S. 90 being 1) ugly, 2) lonely and 3) boring through far west Texas. My use of numerical points made it worse, as if I were emphasizing my negative observation of the area. 

I must say that I knew better. As a native Texan, I was aware of the need to be very careful about pointing out any blemishes on our glorious state, even though there are parts that are more picturesque than others. It didn't seem to matter that, in previous posts, I almost always used the adjective 'glorious' when I mention my storied state that I do, indeed, love. 

Well, it didn't take long for the chastening to begin among those who left comments. (God bless you, by the way; I love to get comments on my posts.) I could almost imagine some of my Texan brethren who read this saying, under their breath, "Get a rope." My only excuse, guys, is that I was tired. We were doing one-night overnights, taxing as those are to us old folks, and it was late at night when I was writing the post. I apologize profusely for the heresy.

With perhaps the most colorful and compelling history of any state, full of gallant heroes of Texas' independence at battles such as the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto (one of my own kin died at Goliad), Texas should never be spoken of in the terms I used but in hushed tones of reverence. If I felt compelled to describe things as I did, I should have used gentler terms like "less beautiful" and "undisturbed by man" and "an opportunity for solitary contemplation." 

Let me assure you that I consider my birth in Texas, although I had no say in it, was a gift that I do not take lightly. As a native son of Texas, I revere every inch of it and take no small degree of pride in telling folks of lesser states (which are all the rest of them) that I am a Texan by birth. (Now those friends of mine who are adopted Texans should not get their feathers ruffled; they can't help it that they weren't born here, and most of them would make fine Texans--all except you, Bob L. (You know who you are.) But we'll take Janet anytime. 

In one comment, someone pointed out that we missed many subtleties of beauty and interest by racing through west Texas as we did, and I do acknowledge and regret that--although we have previously done a fairly good tour of the Big Bend area several years ago--which can be found by searching on "Big Bend" in the search box on the right column of this blog. Had it not been for trying to make schedule in Arizona, I assure you we would have been more leisurely of pace and contemplative of our surroundings as we drove through my great state.

I hope these mea culpas are sufficient, so I will get on with the rest of my story about heading west. It wasn't long after leaving Marathon that we passed through Alpine, so named because of its elevation of about 4,500 feet, one of the highest towns of any size in the state. It's a very nice place, home of Sul Ross University, and I would just have you refer to "Alpine" in the search box for more observations of Alpine.

Highway 90 then led us toward Marfa, one of my favorite places in Texas, for several reasons. The 1956 movie classic, "Giant," was filmed nearby, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean, all of whom actually stayed in a hotel at the little town during the filming. It's also has a trifle of oddness, as it has become home to an artsy-type community--folks who are a little different and whose appearance seems curiously out of place here in far west Texas. 

I am possibly even more fascinated by the mystery of the Marfa Lights, a phenomenon dating back to 1883, when a young cowhand reported seeing orbs or pinpoints of lights out in the uninhabited desert east of Marfa, where there was nothing that could possibly produce light, except perhaps for fire, but these lights are not produced by fires, which would be readily discernible. I find this even more fascinating because I have actually seen these lights myself from the wonderful viewing stand on U. S. 90 that was built by the state. (Again, search on "Marfa Lights" in the blog or read about them in Wikipedia.)  Here are some photos of the viewing stand that I took as we were passing by. When night falls, there will be quite a number of people here looking out into the desert:


View from U. S. 90
Viewing Stand from the desert side.
Stand here to look out into the desert.
This would be part of your view if you were looking for the lights.
As you can see, there is no structure or road anywhere in view--nothing that could possibly produce a light. You can check this out with a telescope provided on the viewing deck or with your own binoculars; but you won't see anything but miles and miles of nothing. Yet, if you're lucky, you may come back and see the lights on a dark night. When I saw them, they looked something like automobile lights--but too far apart to be on a single vehicle, and they appeared to move in different directions. If we hadn't been in a hurry on this trip, I guarantee you we would have come out here on this night and taken another look. The lights, to this day, have defied explanation.

Marfa is a quaint and tiny little town where it defies the imagination that movie stars of the caliber of those appearing in "Giant" would have stayed during the filming. Again, check "Marfa" in the search box for more information about the city and the hotel in which they stayed. Leaving Marfa toward El Paso, we got to see something we hadn't seen before: A roadside diorama of some of the main characters and the main house of the movie:



As you can see, the figures of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor seem to be three-dimensional and almost real, as does the '53 Ford convertible and the facade of the main house of the Reata ranch, as it was named in the movie. I don't know who constructed this piece of art, but we thought it was marvelous.

Farther down the road was a tethered white blimp brimming with electronic gear and used by the border patrol to watch for low-flying airplanes crossing the border from Mexico. This used to be a popular transport method for drug smugglers, but not so much now that there's so much electronic surveillance:



The rest of the drive through my glorious Texas was uneventful, including traversing bustling El Paso, a passage made fairly easy by using the north loop through the mountains. We stayed the night in Las Cruces at the Voyager RV Park--pretty basic, but cheap with Passport America, as was the Marathon RV Park, where we stayed the night before. If we're just doing a single overnight, we try to find the cheapest safe place possible, and we don't even put out all the slides. We just stop, eat, sleep and go.

After crossing into Arizona from New Mexico, we were excited finally to see some mountains in the distance, as in this shot of Mt. Graham from near Safford, Arizona:




Spending my childhood in relatively flat and heavily forested east Texas, it was always exciting to see the first real mountains during our family vacations to the western states. That's because we couldn't see anywhere but 'up' there among the tall pines where we lived. Out here, you can see for a hundred miles on a clear day. 

It was as we were nearing Mesa, our destination for a few days, that the scenery really began to be interesting, especially as we passed through the Superstition mountain range, where the giant boulders and abundant saguaro cacti began to appear.  Here is a shot of Superstition Mountain from the western side, taken from Apache Junction, not far from our RV park:



The origin of the mountain's name is not entirely clear, as there are several versions--the most popular being that the Pima Indians, who were indigenous to the location, reported strange sights and sounds coming from the mountain and the disappearance within of some of the tribe members. They also thought it contained a portal to the underworld. Thus, due to the superstitions of the tribe, it began to be known as Superstition Mountain.

I really enjoy the unusual desert plant life, especially the saguaro cactus. Here is another pretty but unusual plant I saw nearby; I think it is a cholla:



We spent our three nights resting up at Monte Vista RV Resort, a very nice place that houses hundreds of snowbirds in a part of the resort that has deeded lots. They are also putting the finishing touches on a new RV park with 200-plus sites next door. Below are some photos of the place. I am adding it to my 'Best of the Best RV Parks' page.


The Grand Ballroom. They have a grand piano!

Park Headquarters

The New RV Park
I was delighted to discover that the grand ballroom at Monte Vista has a grand piano, as did Victoria Palms in the Rio Grande Valley, where we stayed last winter and where I was able to do some playing. In fact, it was because of the presence of this piano that we have decided to return here to Monte Vista for a longer stay in February. Gotta get some more practice since my shoulder has healed up!

While we were here, our best restaurant meal was at a nearby Thai restaurant that I have just listed on my favorite restaurants page.

Sandy used the downtime to do some laundry in between shopping trips, and I took care of some little chores that needed to be done on Phannie. So, we are off in the morning to Yuma, a place we've never been, but we'll have two weeks there to check it out, then on to California (God help us).


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood