Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ft. Chewbaca

Of the handful of military installations we’ve stayed at (Davis Monthan in Tucson; Lewis McChord in Tacoma; Nellis in Las Vegas; and Mountain Home in Mountain Home, Idaho) the one we’re at right now -- Ft. Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona -- is the most historically interesting to us.  Only I’ve had a heck of a time getting the pronunciation correct.  It’s Wah-chew-ka.

Tuesday we went to a great museum here on base to learn the base's history (and because museum's are even greater places to visit when it's 30 degrees outside.) A few things we discovered:

--The Ft. Huachuca Army post was founded in 1877 and named a permanent fort by the War Department in 1882 because it’s location was situated along Apache escape routes to Mexico.  

--Ft. Huachuca was the headquarters of 4th cavalry patrols that, as a museum brochure states, “hounded” Geronimo in 1886 and resulted in his surrender.  

--The post was a staging ground for the 10th Cavalry’s march into Mexico in 1916. Led by Brig. General John J. Pershing, the “Punitive Expedition” crossed the border to catch Pancho Villa who had killed 16 US citizens aboard a train in Mexico and then crossed the border and killed 18 US citizens in Columbus, New Mexico.  They didn't catch Pancho Villa but the expedition was a proving ground for technologies the military would need in WWI, especially motor transport and aerial  reconnaissance.

--In World War II, two African American infantry divisions -- called “Buffalo Soldiers” -- trained here (and also trained other soldiers) before they went to the Pacific and northern Italy.  

--From 1947 to 1950 the post was closed, given to the state of Arizona, and there were plans to turn it into a resort/spa (complete with buffalo herds and there is still a small herd here).  The Korean War changed all that.

Jim and I also found out that two of our ancestors spent time at Ft. Huachuca.  I’m distantly related to World War I Army General John J. Pershing (called “Black Jack” because he was a supporter of the Buffalo Soldiers) and Jim is related to military leader George Marshall (who was Secretary of State and later Secretary of Defense under Truman).  Pershing was at Ft. Huachuca when the expedition mentioned above started and paid his last visit to the base in 1924. Marshall was at one time stationed here.
Bev posing in front of the Ft. Huachuca Museum and simultaneously telling Jim to hurry up so I can get inside where it's warm.
"Buffalo Soldier" has become the common name used for African American troops who served in the military from 1866 from 1941.
A snow drift in front of the museum and near the original part of the post.  The base is at an elevation of 4,800 feet (higher than where we live in Salt Lake City) so the weather is cooler here in the winter than in most of southern and central Arizona.  During the summer it normally does not get much hotter than the mid 90s.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sierra Vista, Arizona

We left Tucson this morning and drove 75-mile southwest to Apache Flats Campground at Ft. Huachuca Army Base in Sierra Vista, Arizona, about 15 miles north of Mexico.  The weather forecasters were predicting rain again today, this time with a cold front. We had to hook up the tow car in some coldish rain, but made the short trip without much more. We also got the rig set up at the campground (including putting vinyl covers on the tires and the front windshield, which we do anytime we plan to stay somewhere more than a day or two) before it started to rain again.  It’s evening now, and rain is hitting the rig pretty hard.  If it gets colder tonight (and it’s supposed to) the weather folks said there might be an inch of snow on the ground in the a.m. 

Anyway --- after we settled in, we explored the base a bit.  Ft. Huachuca was founded in 1877 and is the only active Army base in Arizona, although the state used to have two dozen army camps and posts.  It’s is a center for electronic weaponry, US Army communications and military intelligence training and has about 18,000 people working here during the day.  
Sierra Vista is close to Tombstone and Bisbee plus lots of hiking so we're looking forward to  better weather and some exploring.  
Our rig (front center) during a break in the rain. This small campground (only 50 spaces) takes reservations and fills up fast.  We reserved a spot in early December. 
A path near the campground.
Cooper getting ready for bed.  The white thing above him is a quilt we hang between the cab area and the living space of the rig to help keep out the cold.  We also put foam inserts in our roof vents and bathroom sunroof.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thank goodness Jim bought a new spare tire before we left SLC

Two posts ago I wrote that I was having trouble coming up with blog topics because we're doing less sight seeing than we did during last year's Tucson visit.  Shortly after I wrote that, we had somewhat of an adventure when we decided to go to Sulphur Springs Valley, about 75 miles east of Tucson and near Willcox, AZ.  
Sulphur Springs Valley area is the winter home of two groups of sandhill cranes.  One spends the summer in northern Canada, Alaska even as far away as Siberia  This group stops in Nebraska enroute to Sulphur Springs.  The other spends the summer in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and small parts of northern Utah and Colorado, and stops in southern Colorado on its way south.  They all come to Sulphur Springs because they need large areas of low water with little vegetation to roost (and it's plentiful here) , plus there is a lot of waste grain from nearby farm fields.  I read that 40,499 sandhill cranes were counted in the  Sulpher Springs Valley in 2010.

We stopped at three wild life viewing areas.  When I got out of the car at the last one to take photos I heard a loud hissing sound coming from the back of the car.  Then I saw a shiny piece of metal sticking out of our rear passenger-side tire.

Jim took a quick look and pulled the car to a nearby flat space.  We’d never changed a flat on the Honda, so it took us a bit of time to find an attachment for the lug wrench that fits just one of the lug nuts -- an attachment that I didn’t even know existed (and I really have changed a flat tire before).  But Jim got the flat off, put on the spare, and about ten miles away we both thought “gee, is  there enough air in spare?”  Fortunately, we were not too far from  Benson, AZ,  where Jim added 13 pounds of air at a Love's truck stop.  So yes, the spare was more than a tad low.  The next day we got the flat fixed here on the base, plus had them double check the tightness of the lug nuts.  All is well.

This shot was taken from the first wildlife viewing station.  You can barely see the cranes in the photo -- they are the dark line between the taller vegetation in front and the mountains.  But we could really hear them, and could also see them with binoculars.
A photo taken at the third wildlife area (where we saw ducks, not cranes), about 30 seconds before I hear the tire leaking air. 
Jim right after he changed the tire.  It crossed my mind to take a photo while he was changing it, but it did not seem like a good idea at the time. (He said it would have been OK.)
To the left of a penny: the 3/4 of an inch long piece of metal that was in our tire. What and the heck is that?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

100 percent chance of rain

The big Tucson news earlier this week was a projected weather forecast for today of “100 percent chance of rain.”  Today the weather folks are saying “Showers have taken over the state of Arizona.” Since very early this morning it’s been raining hard, letting up, and then raining again.  Repeat, repeat.  No big deal in Oregon, Ohio or Utah.  But a big deal here. All the photos below were taken this morning at Tucson's Davis Monthan Air Force Base FamCamp, where we are staying in our motor home.

A fake "dry wash" gets wet.
Jim and Bev with very wet glasses.  It looked like we were the only ones in the FamCamp walking in the rain.  We did see a crazy guy doing donuts in his car,  however.
Taken from directly in front of our motor home. It drained pretty quickly between showers.
The force of the rain actually broke a branch off this cactus and created what looked like a picture frame.
A sun break between rain showers.
Another sun break, this time with the nearby airplanes stored on the base's "bone yard."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What to write?

Last time we were in Tucson (January through March of 2012) everything was so new.  Our first time at a military RV park!  Airplanes parked practically next to the RVs!  Cactus everywhere! Warm winter weather! The Desert Museum, the Saguaro National Parks, the Tucson Art Museum, gravel front yards...!

This Tucson visit, I’m having a harder time coming up with post topics.  To be honest, we’ve spent a lot of time doing stuff we’d do if we were home in Salt Lake.  We go to a great gym here on base.  We eat out some.  We go on walks (well, we might not be doing that because it's to darn cold right now is SLC).  I’ve been going to second hand stores.  Jim’s been watching the football.  Tomorrow we’ll watch the inauguration.  We took Cooper to a dog park.  We went to another movie (Silver Lining Playbook starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence; we both thought it was so-so.  If you can only see one movie, see Argo.) We had another problem at home with the furnace (which was fixed Friday) so we’ve been talking with our house-sitting kids about that. 

We had a Big Love-watching marathon and viewed the last five hours of the HBO series in one sitting.  Big Love is about a Salt Lake City home improvement store owner and his polygamist family.  Polygamy gets lots of press in Salt Lake City (the Salt Lake Tribune even has a polygamy “beat”) and the show weaves some real-life Utah and polygamy-related events into its plots, which we found interesting.  But now that we’re done, we won’t have to see the crazy, demonic brother-in-law Alby and the just-as-crazy-but-evil-in-a-different-way-sister-wife Nikki.  Thank goodness.

We also celebrated our wedding anniversary and Jim’s birthday this week.  Anniversary Number Nine was celebrated with a movie (the previously mentioned Silver Linings Playbook) and dinner at El Charro, our favorite Tucson Mexican restaurant. For Jim’s birthday (which is today) we went to the kind of cleverly named pub “Sir Veza’s” for lunch and watched part of the 49ers - Falcon’s game.  Happy anniversary and birthday, my dear. And to Jim's sister, Cathy, who shares his birthday.

As for posting on our blog:  I’ll either get motivated and do something new so I can write about it, or we’ll move the rig and put ourselves in a new location.  Or both.
We may be doing same-old, same-old -- but here's a first 
(for us).  See the dark rectangle near the middle of this large 
motor home?  It's a flat screen TV built onto the outside of 
rig.  These folks are parked pretty close to us (I took the 
photo while standing in our doorway). We could see and 
hear the 49er's-Falcons game they had on.
Cooper at the dog park with the water bottle he shares with 
Jim.  Jim can drink out of the straw or he can squeeze the 
bottle, point the straw at the blue cup and water goes into 
the cup for Cooper. (Like I said, Jim can do this -- but in 
most cases he shares my water.)
Jim and Cooper walking at Tucson's Reid Park.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cold in Tucson

It's not as cold here in Tucson as some parts of the west right now (i.e., Salt Lake City where it’s supposed to get to -3 tonight) and there’s no snow ... but it’s plenty cold.  According to the local newspaper, early Monday morning it got as low as 21 degrees -- a record for January 14;  early this morning it got down to 17, also a record.  Everyone at Davis Monthan Air Force Base FamCamp where we are staying must be running electric heaters to combat the chill because the electricity gave out for a bit this morning.  

It’s projected to get up into the 70s this weekend, so until then we’re doing indoor activities.  Yesterday we saw “Argo,” the Ben Affleck film about a real, crazy and successful CIA scheme that got six US Embassy employees out of Iran during the 1980s hostage crisis that kept other embassy employees imprisoned for 444 days.  Very good -- tense but, in parts, funny.  Afterwards we went shopping for a new electric space heater.  Home Depot was actually all out.

Today we had lunch at a brew put Jim likes called Barrio Brewing.  Just as we got there a water pipe broke (because of the cold, the manager told us), sending a waterfall over one of the doors. Fortunately the water gushed over the exit and not the entrance, because it really did happen almost simultaneous with our arrival. Then I dragged Jim to two thrift stores because I have a plan to buy my clothes in second hand shops (which could get derailed when I go shopping in SLC with my daughter).  Then we stopped at a a place called “BevMo” that sounds like an abbreviation of my name a la JLo, but is a beer/wine store.

Kind of mundane, but fun.  And as I write, we're back in the rig staying warm.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

From Organ Pipe to Tucson

We’re now at the Agave Gulch FamCamp at Tucson’s Davis Monthan Air Force Base, where we spent nearly three months last winter. We got here yesterday afternoon and it’s cold: 25 degrees last night and projected to go below freezing tonight.  Day time temps are in the forties.  Last night Jim disconnected our water before we we went to bed so the hose wouldn’t freeze.  We also left the cupboards below the bathroom and kitchen sink open so warmer air could reach the pipes.  No problems so far.  
We’d spent Monday through Friday morning at Organ Pipe National Monument north of tiny Lukeville, AZ and just five miles north of the Mexican border. It’s a stunningly beautiful place almost lush with palo verde and mesquite trees, saguaro cactus, all sorts of chollas cactus, bottle brush plants and of course, organ pipe cactus.  Every vista looked like it should be the cover of a national park brochure.  

We could get Verizon cell coverage at the park, but there was not enough oomph in our router to hook up to the internet (hence our conversation with the border guard in our last post).  So here is some info about our stay at the  lovely Organ Pipe Cactus National Park:

The campground has 200 well-maintained campsites, a great visitors’ center, and hiking and driving trails but only about 30 rigs were there.  The camping fee is only $12 a night, or just $6 a night with a senior pass if you are 62 or older (and I celebrated my 62nd birthday by buying one during our stay.)  A photo display at the visitor’s center said during the 20 years from 1970 through 1990 the campground was full with lines of campers waiting to get in.  A park volunteer told us that now, however, people have some concerns about the US-Mexican border and the most common question he’s asked by people calling for information is “Is the park safe?”  His answer is “yes” if you just use some common sense:  Lock your vehicle, be aware of surroundings, don’t hike alone, report anything suspicious.  Per the park brochure “Organ Pipe Cactus shares 33 miles of international border with Mexico, which presents challenges and concerns.  Your safety is your responsibility.”  

I felt pretty safe.  The Border Patrol seemed to be everywhere, including in  the campground.  Then, when we drove from Organ Pipe to Tucson, it seemed like every third vehicle was a Border Patrol car.  We went through two Border Patrol stops on the way to Tucson; one of the agents told us he was from Fairview, Utah; the other kiddingly asked if our dog was an American citizen.  Jim says he thinks they try to get you talking to get a feel for your actual citizenship and general demeanor.  

But back to Organ Pipe National Monument:  We did four hikes and took a car trip on the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive that winded and dipped through a primitive area of Cactus Pipe Cactus National Monument. The drive has 18 stops that correspond to numbers in a guidebook. If you didn’t know anything about the desert you could take this drive and come away with a basic knowledge of the Sonoran Desert. 

At one of the stops we met two women who told us they’d conducted research about crested cactus used to create a book available at the visitors center.  They were out checking the crested cactus -- also called cristates -- and told us about a couple of good ones. Near the end of the drive we also saw three Border Patrol cars pulled off to the side of the road and figured they’d gotten a tip about something or someone.  So we just kind of cruised by our last stop.  Nevertheless, the drive was supposed to take two hours; with all the stopping reading and picture taking we did, it took us about four hours.

At the campsite we met Jim and Heather of Golden, British Columbia, who invited us over for wine and beer.  Jim worked in accounting and forestry and Heather was a teacher; they also taught skiing and ran a white water rafting tour business.  They were very fun. Heather and I talked a bit about the border issues -- she said she saw someone walking through the campground in jeans and a gray hoodie with the hood pulled up around the face, and thought that someone actually could come into the campground and break into a motor home. Later she realized the gray-hoodie wearer was me.
Our campsite at Organ Cactus National Monument.
In 1937 Franklin Roosevelt set aside a representative sample of the Sonoran Desert and named it after a cactus found here:  Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  Stands of Organ Pipe Cactus can be seen going up this hill.

A view from the campground. 
Sunset our first night at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, as seen from our rig.
One hiking view...

Plus a cholla section that stuck to Bev's boot.  They are sometimes called "jumping cholla" because it does not take much contact to get them to stick.
View of the campground from a hike we took at sunset.
An organ pipe cactus with a crest, which is an anomaly that for some reason causes the cactus arm to spread out like a hand.

A close up of the crest.

Bev in front of another crested organ pipe cactus.  Organ pipe cactus can live as long as 150 years .  Average height at maturity is 15 feet.

This is the lush Alamo Canyon at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Jim taking photos at Alamo Canyon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Organ Pipe National Monument

We're in a stunningly beautiful place:  Organ Pipe National Monument near the Arizona border town of Lukeville.  And as is often the case with stunningly beautiful locations, our internet connection ranges from weak to non existent.  So we drove toward Lukeville to see if we could connect on our router and parked by the side of the road -- only to have the  Border Patrol pull up next to us and suggest another spot because "someone crossing the border could jump in your car."  So we went to the suggested location. On the bad side, we still have a poor connection.  On the good side, no one joined us in the car.  I'll post more later.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Before the holidays -- and our trip to spend Christmas in SLC -- Jim and I scouted out a hiking trail in Yuma's Muggins Mountains "for later."  "Later" was yesterday.  Then today we hiked a trail near the Yuma Proving Ground that followed an irrigation canal. Both hikes were flat but yesterday's trail had sections of deep sand, which made it a little tough for our dog, Cooper.  He seemed happy to stay home today.

The beginning of the trail in the Muggins Wilderness Area.
Jim taking a photo of Coronation Peak in the Muggins Wilderness Area.
Yesterday's trail was flat but covered with either deep sand 
or lots of rocks.  These are some of the rocks we saw.  Carl, 
if you are reading this, what is your geologic opinion? 
Jim walking toward the danger zone today near the Yuma Proving Ground.  He did not cross the boundary, but being Jim, had to take a look.
A view along the irrigation canal where we hiked today.

And another view along the today's hiking path.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Solar adjustment

Desert Breeze Campground, Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma, AZ:

We had a lazy morning today ... got up late, lingered over breakfast and coffee.  Then Jim decided to make an adjustment on our water hook up, which necessitated a few trips in and out of the rig.  My normal morning sitting spot is our dinette bench next to the rig door, and every time Jim opened the door the sun rushed in and I had to close my eyes.  Ouch.  But I'm really not complaining.
The view as seen from our rig door.  When you get the last spot in the RV park, you get what you get.  That's army base RV/vehicle storage on the other side of the fence.
Jim and our salt/mud stained car that made he trip from Salt Lake City to Yuma.  The photo does not do justice to the dirt.  Jim washed the car today.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Where butterflies dance

We arrived in Yuma, AZ this afternoon.  We'd stored our rig here at the Yuma Proving Ground while we drove home to Salt Lake City for the holidays with family and friends.  When we got back to Yuma and I first saw the rig, two butterflies were zig zagging around it.  A lovely sight after several weeks of cold Utah weather.  Even lovelier was the fact that the Proving Ground's Travel Camp -- where you can't make reservations -- had one spot left and we're in it.

We took off the rig's window and wheel coverings, drove to our space, and leveled the rig.  Jim hooked up the water and electric while I unpacked, and then we went to the base commissary for groceries.  And now we are tucked back in our little motor home.  Not sure how long we are going to stay here; originally it was just two days, but our next stop has no TV/radio/internet, and there's apparently a Jim-must-see Seattle Seahawks game Sunday -- so that may extend our stay.  
Big sky, long road through California on the way to Yuma, AZ.
The Turtle Mountains as seen from I-95 in California. When I took this photo we were pretty much due west of Lake Havasu City, AZ.

And, for our friends in Washington who called right after midnight January 1 to say Happy New Year -- here's what Jim was doing while I was sleep-talking.