California and Arizona, December 7th until December 19th 2017
When I am done with our administration I go outside to climb some rocks in Jumbo Campground in Joshua National park to watch the sunset. Dick still thinks a sunset isn’t really special (the sun sets everyday) so he stay inside, but I always like this magic moment. When I return to our RV, a high fire is burning at our neighbors who left their place. Everywhere on the ground are donuts and a huge pile of ice cubes, a feast for the jackrabbits. It’s difficult to extinguish the fire so I take a chair to sit next to it.
For some time that’s OK because the high flames sufficiently warm me but after about half an hour the outside temperature is really too cold. Dick has not even bothered to get outside because he thinks it’s madness to sit outside with a temperature of 40 degrees. After throwing huge amounts of sand over the still burning fire I leave. This fire can’t hurt anymore. The next day the wind is less and thus the outside temperature feels a lot more pleasant. We drive through Joshua NP to the South, stop at the Cholla gardens, where beautiful cactus grow, we listen to music from the sixties, played by some hippies on the car park and dump our grey -and black water at Cottonwood campground. At 10 am we leave Joshua NP and drive through a gorgeous box canyon with wild rocks. This is awesome.
There cannot be a greater contrast when we arrive in Mecca, CA, surrounded by fields of citrus trees, grape vines, and peppers.
It’s incredible how water can change an area. Mecca is located near Salton Lake, a huge lake, and as the name suggests, a salt lake. We drive along and suddenly we see a State Park with a campground. We cannot resist the temptation to have a look and take the junction. There is a beautiful spot right at the lake and the rest of the afternoon we sit outside in shorts. It is warm, around 78 degrees.
To reach the lake we have to walk over a thick layer of shells, regularly we find skeletons of Tilapia fish. They flourish excellent in this lake. Of course we make a campfire when it’s getting dark and Dick prepare delicious steaks on the grill. This place is definitely worth to return to. The night is clear with incredible stars and a temperature of 51 degrees. The next morning is cloudy, but the temperature is still good. Slowly we drive to the South and of course we meet the first border patrols. We are only 60 mile from the border with Mexico. We take the narrow roads through the fields because we want to see the Imperial Sand dunes.
A huge area full of dunes, a Valhalla for the off-road motorcycles and OHV carts. I would love to have a buggy to race these sand dunes. Jealous I look at the many vehicles and engines racing around us. But we don’t have an OHV or motor and have to continue.
So, after taking many pictures at a high viewpoint over the sand dunes, we continue. Now through a stone desert. We are the only ones on this road driving around. At 11 am we arrive at Yuma. This town is located at the border. We arrived in Arizona, so again we cross a time boundary. This time we lose an hour, it is 12 am. After some shopping in Yuma, we decide to stay here at Walmart. Despite the signs that it is forbidden to stay here, the employees tell us that nobody is sending you away, so we’ll risk it. I don’t mind because I have to go to the hairdresser and love to look around in Walmart. Dick also wants to go shopping and together we walk inside Walmart. As there’s a long line for the hairdresser and I don’t want to wait so long, we go together. We buy some small things, we don’t need but love to have, and the rest of the afternoon (not long, because walking around at Walmart takes hours) we read, work on the website and of course talk a lot about anything and everything. Traveling around in an RV brings you close to each other and after travelled over 7 months I am no longer afraid that our marriage will not hold (something I was afraid of the first time, 6 years ago, when we decided to travel for a year).
Sunday December 10th we leave for “Organ Pipe National Monument”. The road through Mexico is 50 miles shorter but then we have to affect insurance, not really easy on Sunday morning.
We take the USA road through an inhospitable area and of course we regularly pass border controls. We are not really far from the Mexican border. Along the Interstate are huge RV Parks for the snowbirds (people from the northern part of this magnificent continent who spend the winter in this part to avoid the cold in their own region). I just do not understand why someone chooses a RV park almost bordering the Interstate. It allows you to suffer the traffic noise. At Gila Bend, AZ, we leave the Interstate and drive south to Organ Pipe National Monument. This is still one of our favorite parks, always quiet and with plenty of room.
Of course Dick has to drive some laps around the almost empty campground before I find the right place to park (all the places are really the same). And then we enjoy the silence, the Cactus Wren and Quails, flying and walking around. Despite the many clouds and lack of Sun (but also lack of wind) it’s around 68 degrees and nice to sit outside. Of course, I also like to climb the hill nearby from where I have a magnificent view over the surrounding plain and the Mexican border.
Monday December 11th we decide to stay another day because we like to hear the ranger chat and if possible take the excursion to the border patrol. Unfortunately, when we arrive at the Visitor Center, we hear that these ranger programs don’t start before January. It’s a pity but we still stay, the thermometer rises slowly and in the afternoon it is around 78 degrees, the sky is steel-blue and the Sun is shining. It’s nice here.
The Visitor Center has Wi-Fi and Dick can publish. After that we drive back to the campground. Our pay tag is gone so we walk to the camp host. He took it away because he thought, as nothing was left on our place, that we had left. Of course we talk a while and the rest of the afternoon we enjoy the warm temperatures. I look at the brochures we took the past weeks and Dick covers our new road atlas. After 7 months of intensive use, the old one has to be replaced. At 4.15 pm the Sun disappears behind the mountains and directly the temperature drops down. After the heat of the day outside it’s not pleasant anymore.
We leave Organ Pipe National Monument at 10.30 am on Tuesday December 12, because we have to check our mail at the Visitor Center and we also talk to a German couple. They have problems with burning red lights on their dashboard.
Our goal today is the Cache Across America of Arizona, West of Tucson. Our Hakuna takes us through the Sonora desert over quiet roads. Regularly we are stopped by a border patrol, checking our passports, asking who we are and where we go. However we may always continue after a friendly chat. After driving through an endless desert landscape with sand and bushes we finally come back to civilization. Around us are fields with cotton and then we arrive at Picacho peak, a distinguish mountain peak in the middle of the desert. We drive our RV over an unpaved road until the road is too bumpy and walk to the cache. It’s there, between huge cactus, and we can write our name in the log. As we are close to Oro Valley, AZ, we try to stay at Walmart but this Walmart as well as another one tell us that it is forbidden to stay overnight.
So we drive to the nearby Catalina State Park. There is a nice spot for the night. Unlike Organ Pipe it’s considerably colder here and sit outside is not agreeable. We walk in the park to view the many huge cacti here, as if we did not see sufficiently cacti in Organ Pipe National Monument.
Wednesday December 13th after dumping our grey- and black water we drive to Camping World. In the brochure we have read that an air compressor with enough power for our RV tires is on sale. Unfortunately, the pump is sold out just like the weather station, but we find a (high) step, very suitable for fixing our insulating blanket. So we don’t leave without anything. Over Interstate 10 we drive east. The road takes us through Texas Canyon with magnificent rock formations and at 3 pm we arrive in Chiricahua National Monument.
At the Visitor Center we get our stamp and then, surprising, we find out that 6 years ago, we have been here on the exact same date, December 13th. Neither of us remember we’ve ever been here and then the ranger tell us that there was a huge fire 6 years ago, so we probably did not go beyond the visitor center. There is a campground in the canyon and we’re happy to find a place. Not because it is so busy but because many of the spots seem to be very small and narrow and our car just not fit in. We already have some trouble to get into the campground because we have a deep gully to cross and the bottom of our RV scrapes the ground. But finally we take place # 13. We have to because 6 years ago we visited December 13th, we married on the 13th and we live on # 13. Our place keeps the sun fairly long so we drink our hot chocolate (of course with whipped cream) outside. But when the last sunrays disappear behind the mountain it’s so cold that inside it’s more pleasant. To be on the safe side we put our insulating blanket in the front window. It will be cold, we are at 5330 feet. A wise decision because the night is really cold and clear and the stars are brilliant.
After having breakfast on Thursday morning we see the sun appear over the mountains and drive the beautiful Bonita Canyon of Chiricahua National Monument. The rock formations are incredible here. Sometimes there are huge pillars but there are also rocks piled up and sometimes a boulder balance on the rock below. We slowly climb up through the canyon until we are on the rim from where we have a magnificent view on the desert plain. At the highest point, Massai point, 6860 feet, we hike a trail. It gives us not only a view of the desert below us but also let us enjoy the rock formations which made this park to get its status as National Monument. It’s great to be here, we enjoy! Despite the 6 year old stamp in our park passport, we both know that we have never ever been here. Then, after taking one last picture of this beautiful place, we slowly leave this park and head to Kartchner Caverns State Park. In the middle of the desert, in Zunizona we find a laundromat at a thrift store, so we stop. Our laundry bag protrudes, we did not do laundry for 8 days. It’s really quiet here and we have all the machines for our self. When everything is clean and stowed away we continue.
At 3 am we arrive in Tombstone. I want to stop to see if there is a used bookstore, so we park our RV in a huge parking lot near Main Street.
When we see the car of a Marshall, I walk up to it and ask if I may stay overnight in the parking lot. Once or twice the Marshall answers that this not ought to be. Do I have a pleading look or a sad look, I don’t know, but finally the Marshall says: “it is for 1 night? We never had this conversation” and so we‘ll stay for the night on the empty parking lot. It gives us the opportunity to walk through Tombstone on a snail’s pace. This town has a gunfight for tourists and we decide to buy a ticket. It’s not really spectacular but that is because I don’t know that this gunfight represents an event from the year 1880. When we also visit the Tombstone Historama, where this event is retold and showed (a combination of a diorama and movie from 1963) this dawn upon us.
And when we also get a newspaper from the year 1880 in which the whole story is explained, the gunfight come to life. At half past five it’s so cold that, with only our shorts and hoodies, it’s not pleasant to be outside. We walk back, on the wooden decking, through the now deserted streets to the parking lot, put on a down jacket and walk back to Main Street. There are only some inhabitants left. All the tourists left after the gunfight. We ask where the food tastes good and Crystal Palace is recommended, so we decide to have dinner there. Inside we enjoy the decorum around us. You feel like you’re really back in the late 1800. And indeed our burger is tasteful and also the draft beer is good.
After a last picture at the lighted Christmas tree in town, even in this western town everything is Christmas, we walk back to our RV and on take a journey to dreamland. After a quiet night on the parking lot, the Marshall left us undisturbed, we drive to Sierra Vista, where we check our mail before continuing to Kartchner Caverns State Park. There the campground prices doubled in regard to three years ago, now $30 a night.
We don’t want to pay this price so we leave. Near the western part of Saguaro NP is a campground with significantly better prices. We have to go to a campground because we want to dump our grey- and black water before heading to Mike and Susan.
Close to Tucson we pass the Pima fairgrounds where we also can stay overnight for less, so we choose a place and the rest of the afternoon I try to find the things I want to bring with us to the Netherlands. Dick also has a giant job because for several hours he is busy with paperwork in order to get 11 patches and a gold coin from the Utah Geo Tour. Fortunately, there is a fairly strong
Wi-Fi on these fairgrounds so he can do this. We are both ready at 8 pm and have some left-over food, our refrigerator must be empty before we leave. The campground, actually a huge plain with gravel, is almost empty so, when the sun disappears behind the mountains, we have an excellent view. We really are amidst the desert, the sky colors bright red. Luckily, the wind that was really cold and blew hard all day, diminished.
Saturday morning, December 16th we first dump our black – and grey water before we leave the fairgrounds. On our way to Mike and Susan we pass Camping World where, of course we stop to see or the tire pump already arrived. And Yes, after looking around (in a camping shop are always fun things to see) we leave with the pump and drive to Mike and Susan’s house. Once we arrive at their home, Susan comes out. It’s great to see them again. While Susan and I have a lot to talk about (always), Mike and Dick leave with measuring instruments and sometime later, they come in again, our RV is in Mike and Susan’s garden, next to their own RV.
The men succeeded to put both RV’s behind the fence. We have a great and safe place on “Mike and Susan’s RV Park”.
We talk and talk and talk, I spoil Penny, their Beagle and then it’s already 5 pm and Susan starts making food. It’s delicious Mexican food with very tender chicken. We really enjoy this food. Unfortunately the concert, Susan and Mike should go to, is cancelled so Mike put music on the huge TV screen and the rest of the evening we enjoy beautiful Christmas music in a wide variety. Mannheim Steamroller Orchestra, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the Celtic Women. It is really nice to hear different versions of Christmas music. And it’s good that we enjoy this music together. When the third DVD is finished, it’s time to go to bed. Sunday morning, unlike other days, it’s bad weather. Regularly it rains hard and the clouds are down to the ground. During the day the clouds pull up and we see snow on the surrounding mountains, some inches of snow is fallen.
It is not warm, only 54 degrees. This is weather to stay at home near the fire place and so we do. We have breakfast with cereals, drink coffee and talk, talk and talk. Then I repack our bags because yesterday I’ve only thrown all our stuff in it. Again time flies. This morning Susan marinated huge pork chops and Mike put them on the grill. They not only smell good but it’s excellent when we eat them together with delicious peas and salad, it’s a great meal. Wooow, this taste good! In the evening, we watch a Christmas movie and a conference by John Pinette, a stout comedian with a conference (of course) about … food. Unfortunately John Pinette passed away too young. We laugh a lot and in the breakdown, during an interval, Dick successful check in. Unfortunately this time no two chairs in a row, we will have a neighbor.
After again a full night’s sleep Dick and I wake up, rested. Mike and Susan cannot really say that. Penny, their beagle, haunted around the whole night. Our presence so nearby and still unreachable (after all, we sleep in our RV in the garden), is sufficient reason for Penny not to sleep so Mike and Susan also did not get much sleep. Penny is overjoyed when she is allowed to come in Monday morning December 18th, after we showered. She can’t get enough to sniff both of us.
After breakfast we put the last stuff in our backpack, Dick shows Mike a few important things in our RV, just in case they will use it, and we talk and talk (that’s what good friends do). Of course we make some pictures and then Mike and Susan take us with their jeep to the Arizona Shuttle that will drive us from Tucson to Phoenix. We say goodbye and hope we will see each other again on January 4th next year. At 3 am we arrive at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. We have a small snack before we check in our bags and walk to the gate.
We only have to wait three hours before we can board. It’s not bad because I have to write for the website. At an outlet we work on our laptops and in the meantime we can charge our cell phones. And then it’s time to board the plane. Despite the fact that we regularly fly, we change airlines too often and therefore we have insufficient points to take advantage of the benefits of our frequent flyer card such as: first check-in. But because we sit at the end of the plane we may quickly board. Nobody shows up on the 3-rd seat and when the flight attendants close the luggage boxes (so everyone is in), we know we have three seats for the two of us, quite a lot of space for the night. We sleep reasonable and tuesday morning we arrive in London, England. We don’t have to wait long at Heathrow. There is only time to have a Starbucks before we board again on the plane to Amsterdam. Eventually at 7.30 pm we get our luggage and within 15 minutes we can board the train home.