Controlling The Sun

As we know from Greek mythology, in an attempt to escape imprisonment, Icarus met his demise by flying too close to the sun, melting his artificial wax wings and plummeting into the Aegean Sea.  While there is no risk of falling into the sea in the Arizona desert – we haven’t seen significant signs of water since we left Texas! — Betty & I do wonder if we risk being melted by the sun as we escape Winnipeg’s winter…

Of course we came to Quartzsite, Arizona for the sun. We are dry camping in the desert, and I do mean dry! The sun bakes down for more than 300 days a year (I could google the actual average number of days, but the sun is frying my brain just now. LOL) Dry camping, or boondocking, means that we are not hooked up to a water supply, and we do not have a sewer outlet, so we do our best to conserve our fresh, black & grey tanks. And of course there is nothing to plug an electrical cord into. There is evidence of former rivers and streams in the desert, but at this point they are bone dry. Needless to say, I haven’t seen car, truck, or RV washes for a long time, and everything gets a generous coating of desert dust/ sand.

Anyway, to the main focus of this post: the sun. Our little Smart car cover does a good job of reducing Shake-n-bake, and our Home Depot purchase of a 4’ x 10’ sheet of foil insulation greatly reduces sun heat gain through our motorhome’s large windshield (when parked, of course…LOL). But the big deal this week is our new solar system!

Everywhere we look on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties, RVs are covered in solar panels. We have been considering solar power for some time now, and what better time than in the sun-soaked desert! Unlike northern dealers who may install 1 or 2 systems a year, Solar Bill specializes in RV solar installation, installing up to 8 systems a day. Solar Bill’s our man!

We chose 2 250w solar panels for our roof, for a total of 500w of power. They are attached to a 2000w pure sine inverter-charger, an MPPT solar system controller, with remote digital meters for both, and 4 coach batteries. Tilt arms allow the panels to be adjusted to catch the most sun each day.

Of course yesterday Murphy’s Law took effect: It was the first day after our system was added, and while it didn’t really rain, we had the first overcast day since arriving in Arizona. Augghhh! Well the double rainbow was pretty anyway!

Even so, we had enough power to run my CPAP machine all night and grind & brew coffee in the morning. All of our interior and exterior plugs are now activated, and we can charge our phones, computers, ipad, digital camera batteries, gps. etc., etc., etc. all day, whether we are parked or driving. Yeah!!

The sun is a marvelous thing, and we continue to be amazed by the sky around us, particularly as the sun sets over the mountains. We now have literally dozens of sunset pictures, and while we are still extremely limited in our control over that big ball in the sky, a few more shots we have captured at our campsite this week are hereby attached. Unlike Icarus, we’ll try not to fly too close, but appreciate the warmth just the same…

Cheers!

Quartzsite

Hi everyone. As you can see we have arrived in beautiful warm Quartzsite. I have to post two of Gavin’s pictures because I couldn’t fit the whole sign in and be able to identify that he was there! Take good care and hope you are all cozy in your nice homes.

Rock On!

We are east of Yuma, Arizona, at a rock formation covered in graffiti that is thousands of years old! On a whim, we pulled off the highway at a sign directing us to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, and not only found these amazing historic renderings, but a beautiful BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground as well.

Our unserviced site has at least 150’ of frontage, with a large circular drive in front. The back(age?) goes on forever, as there is nothing behind us but a dried up river, desert, and mountains beyond. Included is a level parking area, a sturdy cement picnic table, a fire pit, and all the firewood you can gather from the surrounding deadfall. All of this for $6.! Because we have our America The Beautiful pass, our visit to the petroglyphs is free.

Attached are a few pictures of our campsite, but they don’t do justice to the amazing views in all directions. Some of the pics show others in the campground (maybe 12) that are some distance away, although because it is so absolutely quiet here, you can hear their voices quite clearly — an interesting experience when the city and traffic noises are reduced to zero. As we have come to expect, the nightly sunsets are so spectacular, I’m glad I don’t have to pay to develop all the film I take, like back in the day! LOL.

As I write this post, the temp is 89 degrees f. outside, and because this is a boondocking site, the a.c. is not on. Boo hoo… I have to cool off with those margaritas that are intended for stinkin’ hot days. So now you see the reason for my lack of eloquence…

Anyway, here are some pics of those rock of ages. Hope you enjoy!

It’s Alive!

When we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum yesterday, just a few minutes away from our campsite at Gilbert Ray, I expected to find a more traditional museum, filled with old dead stuff. It turned out to be more of a beautiful botanical garden, crossed with a zoo, crossed with desert hiking trails, crossed with caves, crossed with a museum. Possibly 90% of it is outside, and the place is very much alive!

I wasn’t initially planning to post about a museum tour, but ended up taking so many pictures that I wanted to share a little of this experience. From the many dozens of pictures taken – just a small fraction of the possibilities – I have chosen a few to add to this blog. I am hoping to learn how to add captions to pictures, but in the meantime will put a short note beside each.

 

As is typical in this area of southern Arizona, the views are spectacular.

 

 

 

I am posting 2 pictures of this prairie dog and lizard, looking in opposite directions, just so you can see that they are real. LOL

 

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned in a prior post, there are apparently 850 species of cactus, and I think this park has all of them. Rather than posting 850 pictures, here are a couple of the photogenic plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of photogenic, here is a lush tropical scene. Ok, don’t take that lush the wrong way! LOL

 

 

 

There are also many variations of the agave plant, which capture light and shadow in a dramatic way. Here is one.

 

The park included a reptiles, invertebrates, and amphibians live exhibit, a cave and mineral gallery, a mountain woodland, desert grassland, desert loop trail, cat canyon, riparian corridor, walk-in aviary, art gallery, and hummingbird aviary, among other attractions. Here is one of the hummingbirds.

 

Overall, this find was a true, beautiful, live treasure. Of course I’m talking about the one in the hat. The park was nice too! LOL

Cactus!

 

 

As our kids, grandkids, and friends know, Betty doesn’t swear. But now every morning when she wakes up and looks out our bedroom window, she exclaims: “Those are some big frickken cactus!” LOL.

 

 

 

In the Tucson area of southern Arizona, the cactus is ubiquitous. Front yards, boulevards, license plates and whole mountains are covered in this unique plant. On the one hand it is readily identifiable by its covering in sharp spikes, but we have found that there are so many variations in our campground alone, that we had to stop by a downtown 4th Avenue bookstore after dinner last night to pick up a primer on the perfectly prickly plant.

So here are some of the variations in Gilbert Ray Campground, our current Reddoch Retreat Centre, as identified in Cacti, other Succulents, and Unusual Xerophytes of Southern Arizona:

(Disclaimer: OK, so I just opened the book and there are 96 pages of cacti, many looking very similar to the variations on the previous pages. Apparently there are 850 species of cactus. My bad if I don’t get the names right. Just don’t use this blog post on your next biology test. LOL)

The saguaro (cereus giganteus), or as Betty calls it “a big frickken cactus!” is
just outside our bedroom window, towering over us at about 20 feet. They can grow up to 50’, according to my handy book.

 

This is Betty in our backyard, surrounded by some of her prickly friends. They are obviously nothing like our good friends back in Manitoba. LOL

 

 

The palmer agave is a great plant to photograph, as the sun and shadows can make a dramatic rendering.

 

 

I think this is the pineapple cactus, but it’s bigger than any pineapple I’ve ever seen!

 

 

 

 

This is a closeup of something spikey, although I don’t think that’s the technical name.

 

 

The pancake prickly pear is a common plant, but I wouldn’t eat it with any amount of maple syrup!

 

 

 

 

This may be the ocotillo, or coach whip. Ouch!

 

 

 

This furry tree is also known as the jumping cholla

 

 

 

 

Flowers are just starting to appear on the tops of cacti.

 

 

The cacti add to some dramatic views from our campsite at sunset.

 

OK, that’s enough of our botany lesson for today. If you forget any of the official names, feel free to use Betty’s appropriate term: “That’s a big frickken cactus!” LOL

Serendipity

States 9 & 10…

At times we experience the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: serendipity. This week was one of those times.

After our departure from SPI, we passed through the Rio Grande Valley on our way to Big Bend National Park, at the other southern tip of Texas. Our first stop was a quiet night at a rural home in Zapata, Texas for our first Boondockers Welcome stay. As we sat outside for the evening, the warm air was filled with the beautiful fragrance of local trees, which we were never able to identify. A peaceful night.

As dusk approached the following evening, we entered the small town of Sanderson, Texas. Not wanting to drive through Big Bend Park at night, we decided to look for a rest area or truck stop for our next stay. The previous town we drove through appeared totally abandoned, with nearly all of the buildings falling down, or having been burned down – not an appealing campsite — so we didn’t know what to expect in Sanderson. As we entered the town we saw two motorhomes pulling into a vacant lot by the highway, across from a gas station. We pulled up beside them, and they confirmed that the gas station attendant had told them it was ok to park there, and they said we were welcome to join them.

It turned out that joining them was not simply a matter of sharing the same gravel lot. As I was washing the bugs off our windshield – a standard practice that gives us a clear view of our surroundings in the morning – our neighbour’s coach door opened and we were invited in for an evening meal of San Antonio chicken tortilla soup that had been simmering in their crockpot all day. It was a delicious part of this wonderful happenstance!

Both couples had just come from Big Bend, so they were able to tell us what to expect. But they also shared about White Sands National Monument, east of Las Cruces, New Mexico (State #9), which wasn’t on our itinerary, but we were assured was worth the divergence. Before departing in the morning, we exchanged future travel plans with the hope of reconnecting on the east coast this fall.

While in the White Sands visitor center, we met a woman who told us about an America The Beautiful annual park pass that we could purchase, with the receipt from Big Bend taking $25. off the $80. cost. We would not have to pay the $10. entrance fee at White Sands, nor the $35. entrance fee at the Grand Canyon, nor the fees for any of the other national parks we hope to visit in the next 13 months. Another serendipitous meeting!

Attached to this post are some pictures from Big Bend and White Sands, along with the spectacular views from our Oliver Lee Memorial State Park campsite in the Sacramento Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico, adjacent to the Lincoln National Forest.

We have now arrived in Tucson, Arizona (State #10). Our first night was at the Pima County Fairgrounds on the eastern outskirts. Nothing more than a large, full-service gravel parking lot with excellent wifi, we stayed here so we could consider options in this unfamiliar city. This leads to our final serendipitous occurrence so far this week! We have found a fantastic site at the Gilbert Ray campground, in Tucson Mountain Park, overlooking the Sonoran desert and Brown Mountain. The park is also adjacent to Saguaro National Park. While we are not sure if we will have Internet or cell access for the next week, we hope to be able to post about this amazing landscape soon.

In the meantime, I thought I’d just share some of our serendipity-do-daw!

Cheers!

This 20′ high cactus is in our current campsite!  It was serendipitous that we got this site, as the park fills up fast on a first come basis. We will try to post additional views soon.

Gavin and Charlie are sad to go!

As Graham has so aptly posted it was very sad to leave the Island. The people we have met on the road have been amazing, friendly, and warm.

It is very hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am not returning to the lovely basement office I shared with the amazing Christine and Colleen. This is a very new experience for me and I’m not altogether  sure how I feel. On one hand I am so very happy to be retired but on the other hand I have so much to tell my friends back home about the adventure we have had and get back to the reality of women’s health. On the other hand I have no desire to return to the busyness. I’m sure that eventually I will be able to sort out these confusing feelings.  Never fear I am working just as hard on the relaxed life style as I did on practice guidelines!

So I will say goodbye for now. Charlie and Gavin are in the drivers seat and we are all set to go.

🎶 on the road again🎵  (Willie)

B

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…

This week we reached the end of an historic first chapter in the story of our overlandish odyssey. We said goodbye to our little piece of paradise on South Padre Island, and the wonderful friends we made while there. After leaving Winnipeg on Dec. 26, this was the first destination where we settled in for just over six weeks, representing a much longer period than the traditional vacation prior to retirement – the end of the beginning of our full-time adventure!

In the past we’ve always experienced a sadness in leaving the sun, sand, and
sea of SPI. But this time it was not to return to work, but to press on to new vistas in New Mexico and Arizona. What new encounters await?

All the same, saying goodbye elicited all the emotions normally evoked by Robert Burns’ poem “Auld Lang Syne”, which is often sung to bid farewell to the past year, and welcome the new. We said goodbye to the waves, the dunes, and the seagulls, although the sand was another matter – I think it will still be with us in our carpets, clothes, and car for many months to come! LOL

We attended our final church service at Chapel By The Sea, with another chuckle as a choir paraded to the front for another anthem. Yes, I had a-choir-ed a taste for that! LOL

We made our final trip across the Queen Isabella causeway, which as always was in the curb lane so that Betty could watch for dolphins in Laguna Madre, and I could watch out for pelicans landing on the bridge. At its highest point, the span always provides a wonderful view of either SPI, or Port Isabel.

We said goodbye with a final meal at Joe’s Oyster Bar in Port Isabel, with the bestest, freshest, most delicious seafood in the area! The flounder, shrimp, oysters, and stuffed crab cake are fabulous, as is the fresh cole slaw that accompanies “Joey’s Deluxe Seafood”. Can’t wait to go back there again!

But maybe the most conflicting emotions came in saying farewell to our new friends at Isla Blanca Park. We experienced a great sense of community in our section of the park, with neighbours reaching out to greet us on arrival, and bidding us safe travels as we closed our slideouts, lifted our levelers, and pulled out. And in between were many acts of kindness: From the fresh pecan pie brought over by a neighbor, to an invitation for Betty to join a crafters’ club while at SPI.

It turned out that some had not only been coming to Isla Blanca for the past 20 years, they have been coming to the same site, reserving it for the next year’s season with a $100. deposit on arrival. Many sites have been customized, including ours, with the addition of stone patios, indoor/ outdoor carpeting and flower beds. Neighbours were able to point to mature palm trees that had been planted by camper friends many years before, a unique tradition for a public park. (BTW, this was the final year for this tradition, as the park is about to undergo a complete upgrade.)

Before we made our day trip to Mexico, as mentioned in a prior post, one of our neighbours appeared at our door saying “If you leave your motorhome unlocked while you are away, I can take Charlie for walks and make sure he’s OK.” We had already observed that bikes and other possessions were left unlocked, not out of carelessness, but out of an awareness that people looked out for each other – a most wonderful characteristic. We returned to find that Charlie had enjoyed his day as much as we had!

Adding all this to our package of memories, we are convinced that these new auld acquaintances won’t soon be forgot, and never brought to mind!

“We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne…”

Cheers!