Saturday, February 27, 2010

Washer Toss Tournament

P2270006 Today we played in the First Annual Southwest Lazy Daze Washer Toss Tournament. If anyone is really interested, here is a link to the official rules and how to build the boards.

Jim and I played once before in Death Valley with the Southern California group, and we were hoping we would do better this time. There is both skill and a lot of luck involved, and neither of our teams made it to the finals. Debbie, on the other hand, got lucky to have a partner who was the California champion, and they were the big winners. It was a fun afternoon of laughing and cheering. These are the winners on the podium, and yes, the Olympic theme song was playing in the background.


Tonight after dinner we sat around a big fire and enjoyed a beautiful evening under the full moon. Most of the group is heading out tomorrow but we are planning to stay for awhile. Jim’s dental problems may keep us in the Phoenix area for a few weeks.


Another Day at Usery Mountain

We drove to D & R Family RV in Glendale yesterday and had the propane connector for the catalytic heater installed. They started working on it as soon as we arrived and an hour and a half later we were on our way back to the park. Since Glendale is on the northwest side of Phoenix, and we are staying on the east side, it was an exciting 40 mile drive there at 8 in the morning. The traffic was much better coming back so it wasn’t quite as nerve racking for both driver and passenger. We would recommend D & R if anyone needs RV work done in the Phoenix area. They were prompt, professional, and their prices seemed fair, although the place is not much to look at. We used our new heater a little bit last night, and it was great this morning to take the chill off, although it was already 50 degrees outside when I got up. We managed to set off the carbon monoxide detector today, so we learned that just cracking the kitchen window isn’t quite enough. At least the detector came on before we passed out!

Yesterday afternoon we hiked the Wind Cave trail with Chuck and Carla, a 1.6 mile hike up the mountain. It was a beautiful trail, but I unfortunately twisted my ankle on the climb up. It didn’t feel too bad until we were heading back down, but it is red and swollen today, so I will not be hiking for a couple days. Now I have to convince Jim that it’s okay to go without me.

Some views from the trail. We had a bird’s eye view of the campground and our group area.P2260005 P2260015 P2260006 P2260012

Jim, Carla, and Chuck at the cave.  There are lots more trails in the park and I hope my ankle feels better soon so I can get to enjoy them.P2260010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, AZ

This sign on the side of the mountain is Phoenix’s version of the Hollywood sign. It was placed originally to guide pilots to the airport, but has remained as a landmark. It can be seen from all over the park.P2250001 We are in the group area along with 17 other Lazy Daze RVs. We met many of them at the gathering last February in Catalina State Park, so it’s been fun visiting with everyone. Last night was happy hour, hors d’ouevres, and sitting around the campfire.

This morning Carla and I went on the bird walk here in the park, my second birding adventure in a week, as Debbie and I did one last week at Catalina. We are always seeing birds when we’re hiking, and I thought it would be good to learn about them. The woman who lead our group today was a wealth of information about the local birds and vegetation. If only I can remember everything she told and showed us!

Tonight our group went to Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, a unique pizza joint where they have a giant pipe organ that comes up out of the floor of the stage. It was mildly entertaining (unfortunately most of the music was from our great-grandparents era), and the pizza was acceptable but nothing special. The place was already packed when we got there for our 4;15 reservation. Yes, we are getting old, joining the early bird special folks for dinner before 5!

The pictures aren’t very good, but you get the idea. The organ and all the pipes were pretty impressive, and loud. Tomorrow night the group is going to the Arizona Opry, a Branson-type variety show.  Jim and I and Chuck and Carla are the only ones who opted not to go. Didn’t think we could take that much excitement two nights in a row!P2250004 P2250006

We ordered a catalytic heater for the rig and it came yesterday, so tomorrow we are driving over to an RV place to get the propane lines installed so it can be hooked up. We’re looking forward to having a way to heat the rig while dry camping that doesn’t suck down our propane and battery power like the furnace does. Hope it does the trick.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, AZ


The rain stopped last night and it was a beautiful day today. We took a drive to Lost Dutchman State Park, only about 8 miles from where we’re staying. Unfortunately this is one of the Arizona state parks that is slated to close in June. There are 70 campsites with no hookups, but we only saw one vacant site.  And there were lots of people out hiking. I’m glad we came here before it closed.

The park is at the base of the Superstition Mountains, a really spectacular looking area. We hiked the Treasure Loop trail, a 2.5 mile loop that climbed to some lovely views.

P2230012 P2230005 P2230008 P2230009

Jim’s appointment with the endodontist yesterday was hopeful. He said it was not possible to tell by the X-rays if there is a cracked root on the tooth the dentist in Oregon said would need to be pulled. His recommendation was to open it up and examine it. If it didn’t look cracked, he would redo the root canal and hopefully it would be okay. Jim is going to wait until he gets the abutment and crown on the implant just in case the tooth can’t be saved, but after going through the whole implant process, he wants to save the tooth if he can. He has an appointment with a regular dentist next week to see if he is ready for the crown. It’s always something!

Tomorrow we are meeting the Lazy Daze group at Usery Mountain, and it looks like we’ll have great weather for the rest of the week. One more picture from our hike today. The desert is just so pretty.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Days RV Park, Apache Junction, AZ


Wish I could say this is the view from our campsite, but it was from a hike we took yesterday at Usery Mountain Regional Park,  just a few miles from the RV park, east of Phoenix. The Southwest Lazy Daze Get-together starts Wednesday at Usery Mountain, and we decided to come a few days early so Jim could go to the dentist.

We thought we would get a regular site at the park and move over to the group area on Wednesday morning, but they were full.   We could have stayed in the overflow area,  just a parking lot, but it was raining when we got here  and we wanted electricity, so we called some RV parks that honor Passport America and found a site at Happy Days RV. It’s the typical Arizona snowbird park, lots of license plates from Canada and Minnesota, spending the winter here. Since it’s raining again today, we are glad to have power.

The desert is really pretty around this area, and we are looking forward to doing more hiking with the sun shining. Looks like the rain should end sometime today. Maybe the desert flowers will start to bloom soon.P2210028 P2210027

While in Tucson, we finally tried a pizza from Magpie’s Gourmet Pizza. It was excellent. Whole wheat crust, and they offer a light pizza without mozzarella. The Mediterranean was delicious and we will look for them again in our travels. Yes, we love pizza!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Catalina State Park, Tucson, AZ


We moved to Catalina State Park, on the northeast side of Tucson, on Tuesday. This place is very popular, and after waiting about 15 minutes we got the last non-electric site. They raised the rates for electric from $20 to $25 since we stayed here a year ago, so we didn’t mind the $15 without hookups, and these sites are much nicer anyway.

Jim’s eye appointment went well. He doesn’t need the cataract removed yet, but she thought many of his complaints were due to his dry eye problem. She prescribed Restasis drops, which are advertised all the time on TV. What they fail to tell you is that they cost over $200 a month. We have a high deductible insurance plan, so it would be out of pocket.  Jim decided to try them anyway and filled the Rx at CVS, who handles our drug plan. After getting home he read the literature which states the drops must be stored between 56-77 degrees. Anyone living in an RV knows that is impossible, so he called to see if they could be refrigerated. No dice. So, back to CVS to return the unopened drops and on to plan B, simply using the lubricating gel and drops more often, a much cheaper alternative anyway.

Our temperatures have been in the low to mid 70’s and sunny. Yesterday we hiked the Canyon Loop trail, and continued on a bit farther on an unmaintained trail up the mountain. Jim slipped and fell on the way down but luckily just got a scraped hand.

We had forgotten how pretty this park is. P2170014  P2170016  P2170018 The trail loops back through a canyon with a stream. There was a lot more water than we remembered from last year, and our waterproof hiking boots were put to the test since we had to cross it several times.P2170020  Today it’s RV maintenance and a bike ride. It’s amazing how busy we seem to be even though we aren’t working. But I’m not complaining!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Old Home Week

Our week here is flying by, and we have spent lots of time visiting with old and new friends. Chuck and Carla, from Des Moines, arrived a couple days ago. We met them last year at the Southwest Lazy Daze get together here in Tucson and travelled with them for a couple weeks. They are on a 3 month trip, getting away from the snow and cold back home.

Pam, another full time Lazy Daze owner from Georgia who we’ve met a couple times at the Southeast get togethers, arrived today, on her way to California.

Joe and Sally from Colorado, who we met here last year in March, just happened to be here again this week. Then we got an e-mail yesterday from Dawn and Jeff, full time RVers for 9 years, who have been following our blog and showed up here Wednesday. They stopped by this morning and we had a nice long visit, picking their brains about places to go and see, since they enjoy hiking and staying in pretty campgrounds as we do.

We’ve done a few hikes from the campground, but haven’t even made it to Saguaro National Park yet, which is adjacent to this park. Tomorrow Jim has an appointment with an eye doctor in Tucson, so that will shoot the afternoon. Then we have to leave here Tuesday, long before we would like to. The rules say you can come back for 7 more days if you leave for 7, but we are going to check with the camp hosts to see if they really adhere to that policy. We’re just not ready to move on yet.

Here are a couple pictures from the Brown Mountain trail.  No rattlesnakes yet this year!



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tucson Mountain Park/Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ


We left Organ Pipe on Tuesday and had an uneventful 138 mile drive to Tucson, mainly on Hwy 86, a very good  lightly travelled 2 lane road through the Tohono O’Odham Reservation. We stayed at Gilbert Ray last March for a few days and really liked the park so we were looking forward to coming back. It is another desert park similar to Organ Pipe, although the leaves haven’t started coming out yet on the ocotillos so it’s not quite as green here.

We managed to get a great site, other than struggling with the Lynx Levelers to get leveled. This is our backyard for a week.


There is a 7 day limit or we would stay longer. $20/night with electric, and we got here just in time. The rain and cold front arrived yesterday and it was a miserable day, heavy rain (and snow on the mountains) and in the 40’s. We are definitely getting our money’s worth out of the electricity.

We had lots of errands to run, so we  drove around Tucson most of the day going to a bike shop, Camping World, the Post Office, bank, Petco, Chipotle Grill for lunch, and a trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s. Luckily Tuscon’s traffic is not bad and it was pretty easy getting around even in the rain. Looks like the bad weather is over, the sun is coming out, and it will be 70 by the weekend. Yeah!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Still at Organ Pipe

We decided to stay 5 more nights, so tonight will be our 12th here.  The weather has been good, although still getting a little colder at night than we’d like. It’s been a good learning experience with our solar power, figuring out what we can afford to use so we don’t run our batteries down too much and still have enough power left for the furnace at night.

We’ve done some more hiking, a little biking and just walking the entire campground, which I clocked as 3.75 miles if you go up and down every row. On our walk today we saw a couple from British Columbia who we saw at Lake Havasu and Lake Cauhilla. They are on their way to Puerto Penasco for the first time and we told them what we thought. Just as we did, they met several people who recommended it.  Maybe we’ll run into them again and find out what they thought.

These photos are from Alamo Canyon, a mile long trail that goes to an abandoned ranch. There was still water in the stream from the heavy rain they had a couple weeks ago.

P2060019 P2060013 P2060014 

Debbie and I decided we needed to make one more trip across the border to get a couple things at the pharmacy, so this morning I slipped something in Jim’s tea and got him to go with us. We drove 5 miles to Lukeville, AZ and walked across. This time the border patrol asked if we had over $10,ooo on us!  Guess it’s just a little routine they use to break the ice and get a feel for why we were going. We got a cab to Sonoyta at the tourist office just across the border, and were offered to buy a puppy for a dollar by a little Mexican kid who should have been in school. Then we got to watch him abuse the poor dog by wheeling him around in a wagon, and not very gently. Ah, Mexico!  We survived another trip there, and I got to use some of my rusty Spanish on the cab driver. I suspect he overcharged us, but he did wait for us and took us to a couple different places. It was still cheaper than buying the insurance again, and less stressful since we didn’t have to drive. Not surprisingly, the cab driver didn’t obey any of the speed limits like we did.

Tomorrow we’re off to Tucson.This is one of the many lovely sunsets we’ve seen here almost every night.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico


We braved the bad publicity and drove 68 miles into Mexico to Puerto Penasco (or Rocky Point). We heard it was a popular spot for Americans and Canadians to spend the winter, and we were curious to see why.

Crossing the border into Mexico is no big deal, they just asked us if we had more than $1000 in cash. Guess they are checking to see if we were going to buy cocaine or something. The worst part of the drive was going through Sonoyta, a few miles south of the border. The stop signs were hard to see and not always pointed in the right direction, and we appeared to be the only ones obeying them.  We saw lots of stray dogs, as we have in every little Mexican town we’ve visited. Also there were frequent speed limit signs for 20 kph at pedestrian and school crossings, which is a very slow 12.4 mph. Again, we were the only ones going that slow, and then there would be no signs telling you to resume the normal speed, which we weren’t sure of anyway.  Jim just knew he didn’t want to get a ticket and get thrown in a Mexican jail, so we got passed much of the way to Puerto Penasco. On the positive side, the road was good and traffic was very light.

We found our way to the Old Town area, which was on the waterfront and not too bad looking.P2020035

One of the restaurants with quite a view.P2020031

They also have a nice plaza with an amphitheater right on the Sea of Cortez. There were very few people around, and most appeared to be Americans.


We walked around and looked at some of the shops, which were the typical Mexican touristy t-shirt and jewelry shops, and were accosted by the vendors. They all spoke excellent  English and had a good sense of humor when we said we weren’t interested in their wares. Then we ate lunch at Sr. Amigo, where we had veggie fajitas.  I enjoyed them, but the veggies were a bit too crunchy for Jim. Debbie had some huge shrimp which she said were delicious.

After lunch we drove down the road to the beaches. There were the typical high-rise condos and beach resorts, except that many of them were abandoned in mid-construction, a result of the economic crisis, I suppose. This is a photo from the Old Town waterfront. You can see the condos and RV parks on the beach behind the shrimp boats.P2020032

This is what we found the RV parks to look like. Playa Bonita is one of the larger ones, on the grounds of a big resort. It was not completely full, but enough so that we knew it wasn’t our kind of place. There is a long row of beachfront sites, but it was so tightly packed we couldn’t figure out how some of these huge motor homes could come or go. And the other sites had no view except of their neighbors. We found it to be pretty depressing.P2020038 P2020037

We made it home safely and are glad we went, but this is one place we have no desire to return to. In fact, I doubt I will ever get Jim to go back into Mexico again,  unless he uses some of that cocaine we bought before we go!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More Organ Pipe Cactus

We are really enjoying it here, especially since the weather has been great for dry camping for a change. Today was our first day of clouds and a bit of rain early this morning, but it has cleared up nicely and the sun is shining again.

We have spent our time hiking many of the trails, most of which start at the campground. We hiked to to the remains of Victoria Mine, an former gold, silver, copper and lead mine. Even came across an old miner there. (Or maybe that was Jim.)

P1300021 P1300019

And did the Desert View Loop, which of course had good views of the park and campground.

P1310030  We also drove the Ajo Mountain Drive, a 21 mile dirt road that winds through the foothills of the Ajo Mountain Range. It was a very scenic but slow drive, and we stopped along the way and  hiked the 4 mile Estes Canyon/Bull Pasture Trails, which climbed to a high plateau where ranchers supposedly used to winter their cattle. It was really pretty along the whole trail.

P2010022  P2010014  P2010012 P2010025

Yesterday we drove into Mexico, but I will save that experience for another post. I would have Jim write about it but I’m afraid of what he might say.