A Few Things Along the Way

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Safely back home now, I can look back on a wonderful trip. When traveling over 7,000 miles, one is bound to come across some interesting places and sights to see. The great American Southwest offers beautiful scenery at every turn in the road.

Even the rest areas styles are unique and many offer stunning views of the landscape.

Texas Canyon Rest Area on I-10 eastbound.
El Capitan from a scenic roadside lookout near Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Rest Area near Anthony, Arizona, offering individual covered stations with picnic tables and views of beautiful mountains in the distance.

A rest area just outside of Roswell, New Mexico, provided this reminder of the Cold War that raged between Russia and the United States years ago.

Do you Baby Boomers remember practicing “Duck and Cover” exercises during grade school? Looking back now, how silly was that? Those old school desks wouldn’t provide much shelter from a Russian missile delivering an atomic warhead!

On a lighter side, occasionally you run into something that is beyond description. Take this photo in downtown Quartzsite, for example:

A real business name? A joke? The name of a restaurant? Your guess is as good as mine.
Looking back at this snow-capped peak near Tularosa, New Mexico, it is hard to imagine we had just skirted around that mountain on our journey home.

Even behind city hall in Quartzsite, you could find something interesting like this 1,010-year-old Ironwood tree! Amazing!

A helpful volunteer at the Illinois Welcome Center Rest Area suggested we stop in Casey. It seems the little town has eleven “world’s largest” items registered and verified in the Guinness Book of World Records. Who would have thought?

Largest mailbox
Largest chair
Largest golf tee

You just never know what you may come across on a journey cross-country. Like the billboard I saw while shooting across Oklahoma, suggesting a visit to the Seminole Nation Museum in Wewoka. At first I thought, “it’ll probably be an ill-kept, tiny building without much to see”. Well, shame on me; thankfully, I put that thought aside and went anyway. I spent well over an hour at this beautiful history-filled tribute to the Seminole People, their culture and history. Learn more at their website.

This morning, I was brought back to reality with a couple inches of snow and temperature in the twenties. Thankfully, Spring is just a few weeks away and the locks at Sault Saint Marie will reopen on March 15th, ushering in another shipping season on the Great Lakes. I can’t wait to get back up there to see those huge freighters moving up and down the waterways.

A Cactus Forest

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Last year we toured the Saguaro National Park East. While near Tucson this year, I wanted to see the other portion, SNP West.

This west side is much larger, with thousands of those majestic Saguaro cacti, along with many other types to see.

I hope to never run into an ocotillo. Those thorns are hard as nails and can be one to two inches long!

We saw Saguaro in every imaginable size and shape.

This was definitely not the place to take Abby for a walk!

The Ghost Town that Won’t Die

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Thanks to my sister Nancy’s suggestion, when we broke camp and left Quartzsite we headed north to the little town of Oatman, Arizona. The town does it’s best to keep an Old West theme, but it’s real tourist draw are the wild burros that fill the Main Street every day.

The street does fit the part of what we saw on Gunsmoke or The Rifleman with the burro poop-laden dirt street, wooden walks and rustic, hand-written signs. They even have a few of the locals dressed in authentic 1880s outfits, including six shooters.

The real attention-grabbing part of the visit was the trip down the north side of the mountain from the town. Twisting, turning switchbacks that left little room for vehicles to pass at times. It was beautiful and scary at the same time as we made our way down a couple thousand feet.

If you’d like to know more about the history of Oatman, here it is in their own words:

Poston, Arizona Memorial Monument

A few miles south of Parker, Arizona, in the midst of fertile farmland growing thousands of acres of lush alfalfa thanks to the water of the Colorado River, stands an unobtrusive monument in remembrance of a controversial part of our country’s history.

Just outside of the tiny town of Poston on highway AZ-1, where almost 18,000 people of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned during World War II, now stands a memorial monument on the land of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. I visited the memorial a couple days ago and found myself quite moved by the stories related there.

It’s very important to note that 1,200 sons and brothers from this group volunteered and gave their lives to prove their loyalty to the United States during the war. An amazing thing to do when you think they had been taken from their homes with only what was on their backs, then were stripped of their citizenship. Just imagine.

In total, 120,000 men, women and children from California, Washington, Oregon and even a portion of Arizona were loaded on rail cars and taken to various locations where they spent 3-1/2 years incarcerated. Does this bring any other situation to mind? Yeah, more war-time hysteria that caused actions we should be ashamed of. Ok, enough politics.

If you’re ever traveling between Parker and Ehrenberg, Arizona, look for the group of palm trees that mark this site. Stop and spend a little time. You won’t regret it.

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is just a few miles north of Parker, Arizona. The very well-done area contains 6,105 acres and was established in 1941. We toured the visitor center and learned a great deal about both this river and the Colorado River. This river is a tributary of the Colorado, sharing the benefits of dams, including the Parker Dam just a few miles away.

Parker Dam, which forms Lake Havasu

After touring the small visitor center, I took Abby along on our walking tour of the paved pathway just outside. It was very informative with small signs identifying the bushes, trees, and cacti along the way. There are also three fishing structures.

I kept a pretty close eye on Abby as we walked!
A Chain Fruit Cholla
That’s California on the far side of the lake

What a beautiful part of the country!

A 100-year-old Abandoned Copper Mine

I heard about Swansea – an old, haunted copper mine near Parker, Arizona – on a YouTube video from Russ at RVerTV. It looked very interesting so Abby and I took off without realizing the adventure we were undertaking.

Swansea is 17 miles off a paved road, over roads that are a 4-wheeler’s dream. Problem was that we were in a 4-wheel drive Chevy pick up. To give you an idea, here’s one of the better stretches along the road to Swansea (pay close attention to that sign however).

That’ll get your attention!

Now here’s some more challenging spots along the route.

Actually, it was great fun, well, except for the last three miles that took us down a very steep grade on a mostly one-lane, loose gravel path into the valley where the mine was located. Sorry there aren’t more photos, but it’s difficult to hold a camera when both hands are “white knuckling” the steering wheel!

Once down the mountain, we found what remains of a time long ago.

Piles of leftover tailings from the smeltering process.


Barracks housing for workers.

Any mines left open have been covered with steel mesh guards for safety.

By the time the mine closed in 1944, they had a school, hospital, train station and houses for the managers. The Bureau of Land Management preserved the site. They have done a fantastic job of saving and continuing to care for this piece of history.

I threw the Silverado into 4-wheel high and had a ball climbing back up the mountain. On the way back, we passed over the central Arizona Aqueduct- it seemed strange to see a beautiful waterway in the dry desert.

We had a fun and interesting adventure, one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Plumosa Road to Bouse

Abby and I took a little drive from our BLM camp about 25 miles to the northeast. This took us over the mountains to our east, through Quinn Pass and down into the small town of Bouse. We stopped a few times to take in the beautiful views and scenery, a very picturesque area for sure.

We saw many native cacti like ocotillos, huge saguaros, echinocereus and more.

The return trip took us south through Vicksburg and many huge farms producing eggs, dairy and beef cattle, along with the largest hay fields I’ve ever seen, made possible by an aquifer running through the area. What a difference water makes to our lives!

Top Gun 3?????

On five of the days since we arrived here we’ve been fortunate to see two or three military jet fighters “playing war games” at what I’d guess to be around 10,000 feet over our desert camps.

They do evasive maneuvers and sometimes create a sonic boom evidently trying to evade or shoot each other down – just as we saw in the Top Gun movies. Obviously I’m loving it. It doesn’t last long – 10 or 15 minutes at most – but how cool is that?

I wish I could record a portion, but my iPhone does a poor job reaching 10,000 feet!