Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

In our holiday jamies on Christmas Eve.  This year the boys got plaid and the girls got polka dots. From left to right:  Serene (Shad's twin sister), Jim, Bev, son Paul, daughter Ashley, grand daughter Mia, SIL Shad.  Grandson Marshall was sleeping.
Another jamie shot.

Three-year-old Mia has a great Christmas morning.

It doesn't get much better than a castle that's 
also a marble game.

Bev and Jim with a gift of home made goodies sent by 
daughter Season and SIL Lee of Portland, OR.


Shad and Marshall.
Paul in a reflective mood.
Ash and Marsh.
Mia and Grandpa.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Going home for the holidays

Whoa!  I haven’t posted since Saturday.  Since then we’ve gone to a movie (Lincoln at the matinee at the Yuma Palms Mall - it was packed and we may have been the youngest people there.  Then again, I may be flattering ourselves); to the Yuma Downtown Farmers' Market; to a couple of farm stands between the Yuma Proving Ground where we are staying and the city of Yuma (Jim is now an affectionado of date bread); and we visited another nearby wetlands called Mittry Lake.  

Plus we've been cleaning the rig prior to storing it here at the army base and heading home in the tow car for the holidays.  We leave tomorrow morning. I probably won’t be posting often, if at all, until we are back on the road in early January.  Merry Christmas everyone!  Have a wonderful holiday and talk at you next year.
A coyote staring at us on our way to Mittry Lake.  What Jim really wants to see is a burro.  I may have to buy him one.
Mittry Lake near Yuma on the lower Colorado River between that river's  two southernmost dams (Laguna and Imperial).  The Laguna Dam was the first dam built on the Colorado River.  
Ducks on Mittry Lake.
Jim on the Mittry Lake dock.
And Happy 92nd Birthday yesterday to my Mom.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wellton, AZ

Yesterday was a “let’s drive and see what we find” day.  

We decided to go to Wellton, a small town east of Yuma and about 40 miles from where we're staying at the Yuma Proving Ground.  We’d read that it has a lot of RV communities and Jim had researched nearby hiking routes.  So we just wanted to take a look.

About 1800 people live in Wellton year round but the population doubles when the winter snowbirds show up.  The town’s amenities are very basic:  a small grocery store, a Circle K, a school, a thrift store. 
The main event for us was a hiking trail in the nearby Muggins Mountains.  We weren’t prepared to hike -- I was carrying my pink purse (Jim says I have to get a different one; he doesn't think it makes me look I’m prepared for anything except Nordstrom) and wearing my canvas Toms.  And we didn’t have any water.  But we just wanted to find it for “next time.”  

We drove on roads that took us through all sorts of lettuce, broccoli, and other vegetable fields where harvest was in full force. After the paved road we took a rough, hilly, dirt road to the trail head.  Jim was driving;  he watched the road for potholes and cliffs, while I looked ahead in case another vehicle was headed our way on the very narrow road.  I didn't see any cars, but I did see a man walking with hand weights like he was on his daily exercise walk.

Turns out he was a local vegetable farmer (my dad was a farmer, too, but I can’t visualize him walking the back 40 carrying dumb bells - what do you think, Mom?) who had lived in Yuma all his life  Anyway, we walked with Mr. Farmer toward the trail head and got a short history lesson plus some hiking trail tips

Holiday decorations in downtown Wellton, AZ.
Bev on the trail.  Jim made me hide my purse for the photo.
Jim taking a photo of what Mr. Farmer called  Coronation  Peak. He said the conquistadors named it that because it looked like Queen Isabella's crown.  Per Mr. Farmer, the explorers sent the queen a drawing of the peak that is still in possession of Spanish royalty.
Coronation peak as it looks from the lettuce fields.  
I snapped this shot of harvesting equipment as we drove back from the trail head.  
Christmas decorations at the Moore Farm.
The irrigation here continues to fascinate me.  You can see the deep trenches between rows (or in this case between about three rows) that are sometimes completely filled with water. We think this crop might be cotton.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Water in Yuma

Yuma is in the desert, but also at the confluence of the Colorado and Gila Rivers.  In 1935 the Imperial Dam was completed, giving local access to water for all the irrigated cropland we see: trenches of water between rows of crops plus sprinkler irrigation. (We met some folks who told us all the irrigation makes Yuma humid, but I haven’t noticed that.) The dam also created Martinez Lake.

Tuesday and Wednesday we visited some of the places created/supported by the dam and the rivers -- if you don't count the entire city of Yuma. 

1) Martinez Lake Resort is a private marina/town on the lake of the same name. It was started in 1955 as a fishing camp and named for a family who grazed cattle there before the dam created the lake.  I can only describe the marina as funky looking with hacienda-type homes next to shacks.  Jim said he thought their only zoning regulation was “If you can toss it up, you can live in it.”   Great place if you love to fish, boat, bird watch or are in the witness protection program. 

2) Close to the resort is a military campground on Martinez Lake.  It was less junky looking than the town and had small cabins plus 20 RV spots with electricity and water hook ups, but no gray/blackwater hook ups or dump site--which might limit how long you could stay.  For us, that would be one week max. It's really out in the boonies, but I could maybe see us staying there for a few days next year. 

3) Also near the resort is the beautiful and desolate Imperial National Wildlife Refuge made up of desert, wetlands and the last unchannelized stretch of the Colorado River -- plus what looks like untouched land. 

4) Yesterday we took a 3 1/2 mile hike along the Yuma East Wetlands trail near downtown Yuma.  The trail is in a 350 acres area being restored to wetlands by the Quechan Indian Tribe and the City of Yuma.
The Martinez Lake welcome center, I guess.
Main Street into Martinez Lake...

And another home near the beginning of Martinez Lake  
Jim looking through binoculars at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge.
Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Visitors' Center.
A view at the wildlife refuge.
The Colorado River as seen from the Yuma East Wetlands trail.
Cooper kicks up dust on the wetlands trail.  There may be a 
river nearby, but just feet away you know you're in the 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Yuma Territorial Slammer

The number one tourist attraction in Yuma AZ (per the web site Trip Advisor) is the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park.   When I told Jim that he said "What other tourist sites are there in Yuma?"  So how could we not go?  

The grounds are beautiful:  palm trees, lush green grass, walkways with flowers.  Not sure if the prison looked like that back in 1876 when the first prisoners moved in (they also happened to be the folks who built it.)  But the prison was so modern for its time -- with electricity, running water and flush toilets -- that those on the outside called it "the country club."  Those on the inside, however, called it "the hell hole."  It was oppressively hot in the summer, cells held six people each, and those flush toilets weren't in the cells; each cell had a single latrine bucket emptied once a day.
Jim looking in one of the cells at the Yuma Territorial 
Prison State Park, which was used as a prison for 33 
years.  Over that time it housed  3069 men and women 
who'd committed crimes ranging from murder to 
Bev peering from behind the bars.  After the prison closed 
in 1909 the site was used for a few years as the local high 
school.  To this day, the high school sports teams are 
called the "criminals." Really. 

Jim coming out of the "Dark Cell," a windowless, bathroomless space where you were tossed (in just your underwear) if you didn't follow the rules. Folks  were not 
put in the dark cell one at a time; instead, guards added prisoners until it was standing room only.  (Looks like Jim got his clothes back.) I thought the room had bad juju.

A reconstruction of the prison guard tower sits atop the original water tank.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

One great book; one OSU win

 ---We have a spot at the edge of the Yuma Proving Ground RV Park.  There's nothing behind our rig except a view of desert shrubs and brown, distant mountains.   I can sit outside, look at the view and see no absolutely no one.  (I can however, hear a distant neighbor yelling for Marge, her Shih Tzu)  Today, that's where I read on my Kindle.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe.  Jim’s sister, Cathy, suggested it because she knows I tend to read memoirs.   The book centers on  1) the author's mom’s treatment for pancreatic cancer; and 2) the books they read while she gets chemo.  Sounds like a downer, I know, but  it’s uplifting, touching and motivating. A very good book. (Thanks, Cathy.)   

---I am not much of a TV-watching sports fan, except when it comes to Ohio State - my alma matter - playing football.  And then I watch the game like I do a scary movie:  through my fingers.  When it gets too scary, I leave.  So last weekend when Wisconsin tied Ohio State with just seconds remaining and the game went into overtime, I went on a walk.

After about 7/10 of a mile, Jim found me in my quest for laps around the RV park; Ohio State won.  Yay!  Later I came back to the rig and read about the game online on ESPN and the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.  I’d much rather read about a victory after the game than have to suffer through a close one.

Yesterday, Ohio State had a sloppy win over Michigan to end the season with 12 wins and no losses.  So double yay, as to most OSU fans it’s a losing season if you don’t beat Michigan.  Jim’s OSU however (Oregon State) lost their “Civil War” game between OSU and University of Oregon but still finished 8-3. 

---Finally: It may be hot and sunny here in Yuma, but RV neighbors are hanging holiday lights on their motor homes and stores on the military base are playing Christmas Muzak.  In honor of the holiday season, see our Christmas decorations below.
The only decorations we'll put up this year:  A holiday moose cookie tin (look familiar, Mom?) and Kleenex's holiday edition.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mexican shopping trip

Los Algondones, Mexico is just 8 miles west of Yuma and the northernmost city in all of Mexico.  It’s known as a medical mecca for inexpensive dental care, eyeglasses and prescription drugs -- there are over 350 (really) dentists in this tiny town of about 4500 people.  We’d heard from people we’d met last winter in Tucson that you can get good, inexpensive medical care there, like a teeth cleaning for $20.  But we didn’t need glasses or dental work.  We just wanted to go to Mexico, see Los Algondones and window shop.

You cross the border from the tiny (population 59, says Wikipedia) California town of Andrade.  I didn’t see anything resembling a town as we approached Mexico.  Instead, there was a fairly nice RV park and then a huge, paved parking lot.  We parked the car, followed the crowd, and walked across the border.  No checking of IDs or of anything being brought in.  

Within seconds of crossing the border we were approached and asked if we were needed  dental care, glasses or prescriptions.  If you say yes near the border, the asker will take you to a store and demand a “finders fee” from the doctor or pharmacist. In addition to all the folks hoping for a percentage of your bill, someone was standing in front of nearly every medical place we walked by asking you to come in and get your teeth checked, to get glasses, to get a prescription filled. We must have been asked those questions 50 times. I told one man who asked me if I needed prescription drugs that I didn’t have a prescription. He said I didn't need one.

Vendors also came up to us with jewelry, leather goods, ceramic turtles, painted rocks and all sorts of doo dads.  I stopped to look a couple of times (I did see some purses I liked and wanted to get a closer look) but then someone was right next to me trying to put a wallet in my hand. 

Whenever we are somewhere the least bit “iffy,” Jim’s mantra is to look like you know where you are going and what you are doing.  That means walking with purpose and no lolly gagging taking photos or looking at maps.  When one of the street vendors put a bracelet on me, Jim said someone could have tried to steal from me while I was distracted or claim that since I was wearing the bracelet I’d stolen it.  I didn’t get that impression from the vendors.  Persistent would be a huge understatement, but most were were also polite.  But I get Jim’s point and I'm glad he looks out for us. 

Anyway ... after about forty minutes of walking around and repeatedly saying "No thank you; no gracious" I finally took a few photos.  Then we crossed the border back into the US where we had to show our passports and anything we purchased. (I bought three small bottles of vanilla, which, now that I have them back at the rig and opened one I’m pretty sure are fake -- they are too mild to be real vanilla.  Vanilla water, maybe? ).  In late afternoon or evening it can take hours to get through customs, but since we left Mexico by noon we got through in 20 minutes.  Walking to the parking lot, we heard a woman  telling another visitor that she always came to Algondones to buy tortillas and to visit her husband who had been deported. 

Years ago I took my kids on a short cruise that included a shopping stop in Ensenada, Mexico.  What I remember most was a sign in front of a store that said “We Cheat Less.”  Although I doubt that there will be a “next time” shopping trip to Los Algondones, if we ever do need anything from Mexico's molar/eyeglass capital, I'll research it so I can find a “we cheat less” type of place.

The border crossing into Algondones, Mexico near Yuma. Arizona.  We walked in to the right of the white metal grate in the photo.
An Algondones street.  
Signs for Los Algondones dentists in front of their businesses.  Some of the shops -- like the ones above -- looked run down.  Others looked modern enough to be on the Starship Enterprise.
We still had a successful shopping day because on our way back to the rig we stopped at two Yuma farm stands.  Our haul included honey, pickled beets, date nut bread and (in the aluminum foil) home made tamales. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from Yuma, Arizona

Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving in Junction, Texas.  This year we’re in Yuma, Arizona; we arrived Tuesday from San Diego.  I love the Southern California climate -- the air actually feels soft.  And there are so many things to see/do.  But there are too many people and too much traffic.  And so we are back in Arizona.

As I write, I am sitting outside our motor home in the sun at the Yuma Proving Ground “Desert Breeze” campground (a misnomer today because the wind must be a zero miles per hour).  I’m watching a gaggle of ruby-throated hummingbirds dive bomb each other as they fly back and forth between feeders attached to two nearby rigs. I’m also looking at brown mountains with a view of a single saguaro cactus, shrubby bushes, a lot of beige rocks and sand and -- because we are on a military base, after all -- a chain link fence.

Last Thanksgiving I quasi cooked a holiday dinner (main dish:  turkey sandwiches) but this year we had a full blown TDay meal at the Yuma Proving Ground base restaurant, the “Cactus Cafe,” for $14.95 each. Jim wasn’t sure he wanted to “eat out” -- he said he didn’t think he couldn’t eat $14.95 worth of food. My position was that I couldn’t make ham, turkey and all the fixings for $14.95 times two. Besides the fact that while Jim is a great cleaner upper, he is not a cooker. 
We ate out. Like they say, happy wife, happy life.  And Jim liked his dinner.

We sat with a couple from New Hampshire who for the last three years have lived year round in Welton -- about 30 miles east of Yuma -- in their 34-foot fifth wheel with three slides.  Before that they'd done a lot of traveling and even spent 14 winters living in their rig on BLM land near here and returning to New Hampshire each summer.  Now they are having health problems and can't drive much (the man recently had a defibrillator and a pacemaker put in.  Jim said something along the lines of "how's that working for you?" to which the man replied "I'm alive." That's a taciturn New England thumbs up, I think.)  They advised us to do as much as we could while we were "still young." And whenever we are in a motor home park, I do feel young comparatively speaking. 
Bev's Thanksgiving dinner is on the right.  I made up for less food on my plate by later adding  pumpkin pie AND carrot cake. It was good, but not near as good as I'm sure Bev's Ohio family had today in Brecksville.  Nor was it as good as the huge friends and family dinners we have in Salt Lake City.  I bought a turkey breast I'll do in the crock pot tomorrow so we can still have "leftovers."
Bev and Jim inside the Cactus Cafe. To the left is the buffet line and behind us are maybe left over Halloween decorations?  Photo was taken by hostess Ana Rosa, whose usual job is working in the base gymnasium.
Bev in front of the Yuma Proving Ground's Cactus Cafe.  I told Jim we need action shots and not just "Here's Bev/Jim standing in front of [insert name of object here]."  I'll work on that. But most of what we do is hike/walk/read/look/repeat.  Not alot of fast action.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

San Diego: Balboa Park and Mission Gorge hiking

We’ve done a lot since I last posted.  Instead of an hour-by-hour/day-by-day recap, here are a couple of highlights:

Balboa Park:  Wikipedia calls San Diego’s Balboa Park an “urban cultural park” and that’s a good description.  A huge area within San diego’s city limits, it includes the San Diego Zoo and 15 (!) museums plus restaurants, theaters, hiking trails, formal gardens, wild vegetation, beautiful architecture, a carousel, pavilions and on and on.  That place is enormous.  Named for the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the park was the location of the 1915 Panama California Exposition (which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal) and the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition (held to promote California and help the local economy during the Depression).

I wanted to go to see an exhibit on chocolate at the Natural History Museum -- but by the time Jim and I put in several miles just wandering the grounds, I was no longer up for it.  Another exhibit that seemed to be drawing a lot of takers was “Instruments of Torture” at the Museum of Man.  Ixnay on that one for me.

Hiking in Mission Gorge: Yesterday we hiked at Mission Trails Regional Park, just a few miles from our campground.  The area was originally the home of the Kumeyaay Indians.  Later it was the site of the Old Mission Dam, built to store water for an early Catholic mission.

Close up of architectural details at the Casa
del Prado, one of the buildings in Balboa
Architectural details of Balboa Parks Museum of Man, an anthropology museum.
Part of the remains of the Old Mission Dam.
Bev and a coast live oak at the Mission Trails Park.  The evergreen oak can be shrubby or -- like this one -- huge and gnarled in a way that makes it grow horizontally.

Jim and Cooper and some park scenery. 
A heron near the Old Mission Dam at Mission Trails Park.
And, because we all need some alone time every now and then:  Cooper in “time out” after getting  grumpy in the rig.  He’s between the driver and passenger seats, blocked in by our trash can and our recycling bag.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Old Town San Diego and the beach

San Diego’s “Old Town” was settled in 1769 and was California's first permanent Spanish settlement. Considered the birthplace of California, Old Town was thriving in the mid 1800s.  But then it had a string of bad luck that included an earthquake, floods, fires and a small pox out break.  So San Diego's downtown was moved a few miles south, where it still is today.  

In 1968 the state of California established Old Town State Historic Park to preserve the buildings and heritage that characterized San Diego from about 1820 to 1870.  On Thursday, we visited Old Town where we walked, browsed, bought some olive oil (and did an olive oil tasting -- the first time we’ve ever done that), ate fudge (why is it that fudge stores are in every tourist area everywhere?) and had lunch.

Afterwards we went to San Diego’s Navy exchange and commissary.  The exchange is the military’s version of a department store; the commissary is the grocery store.  I did some Christmas shopping; now I have to figure out where to stash stuff in the rig. I don’t need to hide gifts -- I just need to put them somewhere where they won’t get walked on.

On the way home we took a wrong turn and ended up going back on Naval Base San Diego via a different gate.  Cooper went Cujo at the gate guard who checked our military IDs, which got us stopped.  Seems dogs are not allowed on that part of the base.  The guy with the gun was very nice once he found out our goal was to turn around and find the freeway. 

Yesterday we went to Pacific Beach, which is north of Ocean Beach (where we went Wednesday) and has a very nice boardwalk plus beaches for walking and people watching.  So we did just that.

Today, I think, is going to be a football-watching/cleaning/reading/laundry/make-a-pot-roast-stay-close-to-the-rig day. 

Jim with a poster advertising a beer he tried at the Coyote Cafe in Old Town.  It had a little too much of a peppery kick for him. I tried it and it made my throat burn.
Bev in front of some Old Town San Diego greenery.
Jim says he does not want to live where they do traffic reports on Saturdays. So that crosses San Diego off our "lets buy a house here" list.  That and probably housing prices.  Also, is California the only place that refers to its freeways as “the freeway number," as in "the 8” or “the 5”?
I was on a Pacific Beach pier when I took this photo of a surfer catching a wave.
Jim took this wide shot from about the same spot. The pier we were on actually had vacation homes on it.