Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lake Havasu.. bring your water toys, Quartzsite... bring your water

Thank You for attending History 101, please take your seats and we will begin.

Lake Havasu was created when the Parker Dam was built amid turmoil in the late '30's on the Colorado River.  It was to feed water to the growing populous and farming in Southern California and Arizona. 

What it also created was a great place to have fun on the water and surrounding desert, but it took some time for it to get there.

For this we can thank the chainsaw...HUH?...I hear you say.

In 1964, Robert P. McCulloch founded Lake Havasu.  He also happened to make chainsaws, Paxton superchargers, airplanes and many other things he made plenty of money at.  He was an interesting guy with an interesting life if you want to read up on him, but for us, we can thank him for his vision and wanting to sell real estate to retirees and thus make even more money. 

We came to Lake Havasu because many people winter here and we wanted to see what was up.  Turns out it's more of a summer resort town for the people of L.A., Vegas and Phoenix.  An easy 2/3 hour drive from these places when the temps hit the low hundreds and you want to cool off on the water.  Don't get me wrong there are many people here now too but much of the touristy things are scaled back or closed completely. 

Havasu is the place for adults with toys.  Everywhere you go you see RV's, ATV's, boats, dune buggies, ultralites in the air.  The local gas station selling aviation fuel to feed the 800hp engines in your offshore boat or your modified sand rail.  Drive through the neighborhoods and you see everyone has some sort of toy or two in the driveway.  There was one couple at Cattail Cove that had two Dodge duallies, one pulling a fifth wheel and a bass boat, the other with a camper pulling a two seat ATV on a trailer.  While they were here they bought two wave runners that they had to figure out how to get home.

Mr. McCulloch also did something else big to draw people to this oasis in the desert.  In 1968 he bought the London Bridge at auction. A little under $2.5 million (big bucks in '68) and three years later it was reassembled brick by numbered brick on land and then they dug a canal to pass under it and created an island in the process.

We spent three days here at Cattail Cove State Park on the lower end of the lake, south of the city.  A smaller park that is well kept, nice beach, a boat ramp and we even had a lemon tree on our site.  It was fairly busy so make reservations if it's a holiday or long week-end.  Now that we are seasoned hikers after Sedona, we set off on another mile and half trail along the water.  There are a few different trail loops of various length to enjoy.

El Fresco office

Abby looking sour under our lemon tree.

Fire and ice and the Leafs win!

Nice view on our hike. 

Quartzsite was our next stop just a 1 1/2 hour drive down the highway.  If you are an RV'er you've heard of this place, if not, in short it is the mecca every winter for hundreds of thousands of Rv'ers attending a huge RV show in the middle of the desert.  It goes from a population of 3000 people to Arizona's third largest city for the month of January. While we aren't here for the show there are always venders and RV'ers here in the winter months.  

Most of the surrounding lands are BLM (Bureau of Land Management). Here you can boondock for free for up to 14 days without any amenities or for a small fee, $40 for14 days or $180 for the winter, there are LTVA (Long Term Visitor Areas) where you can have access to water, dump station and garbage disposal.  It is easy and cheap... find a spot, set-up camp then sit back and enjoy. 

Our camp site #1

Abby guarding her rock pile.

Right before we walked the dog.

We on the other hand set-up, sit back and enjoy a beer, take Abby for a walk, Detra sees a nicer camping spot, we go back, tear down everything, pack up everything, drive deeper into the desert, set it all up again, sit back and then mumble things into your beer.

Camp site #2

Detra building a fire pit...again

Nice pit.. she learnt a thing or two from the first one.

A Quartzsite sunset.

We are not really outfitted for dry camping so we only spent one night around the fire, under the stars and watched the sun pop up the next morning.  Many people with solar panels, generators and strong constitutions spend weeks or even months out here, spread out across the land.  There is a feeling of freedom that comes with this type of camping that would be worth the investment in all the equipment needed to sustain yourself, but for now we are more the RV resort types.

Phoenix is the next stop while we make our way to Tucson for a whole month of relaxing in one spot.

Basking in the Warmth,

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Sedona - An Earthly Experience

There is a beautiful place on Earth, a place to feel close to the planet, a land of healing and calm, This is Sedona.  We were told that it was nice, we had heard it was scenic, but it can not be described and then properly understood with words.  You have to be here, to stand in the middle of it, to touch the red soil to take it in with all your senses to appreciate the beauty of it all.

We have spent a week here soaking it in, but you could spend a lifetime and not tire of looking at the rocks and buttes around Sedona.  It truly is the most jaw dropping landscape we have seen to this point in our lives. 

We arrived after our cold and much shortened journey across the U.S. mid-west.  The original plan was to stretch it out for a month to end up in Tucson for the beginning of Dec., but we have always known our plans are written in sand and are meant to change with the wind.  We will be back someday to take in what we blew through on our way to the warm and sunny times in Sedona.

Hwy 17 south out of Flagstaff was a nice road except for the hill you have to get down.  18 miles of hill! Most of the hill at 4 and 6 percent grade it is a real fuel saver but you will pay for it in brakes.  Actually the truck handled it very well, the exhaust brake doing most of the work and the service brakes were used just a few times.  At one point there is a sign telling you "Emergency run-off in 10 Miles", I wouldn't want to be the trucker trying keep 80,000 lbs on the winding road at 100+ mph until it showed up.

Distant Drums Rv Park was our home for the week here, it's a nice park with concrete pads and patios.  The workampers here are very good at keeping this place spotless and making sure you are happy with everything.  This park is about 20 miles south of Sedona and 15 from Cottonwood.  It might sound like it is too far from things, but the great benefit is that you have to take Red Rock Scenic Byway to get to Sedona.  This is the scenic road of scenic roads.  Driving through The Coconino National Forest the byway is 7.5 miles of oohs and ahs at every turn.  I'm not sure how many times we drove this road in our week here but it wasn't enough. 

There is a casino (Cliff Castle Casino) across the highway from the park and if you sign up for their loyalty card they give each of you a $10 credit and the park gives you another $10 voucher so you can gamble a little for free.  They have a good buffet restaurant that we had a lunch and a breakfast at for a reasonable price. 

Sedona itself is an eclectic town, with a mix of people from the mega rich in their mansions to the aging hippies in their vans. ( I know what I'm closer to on this scale, you don't have to point it out to me!)  This is a fantastic area for an outdoor and healthy lifestyle and that is the people you find here.  Mountain bikers with all the best gear are everywhere on the roads or the miles and miles of trails all over the area.  Plenty of meditation, healing, yoga and grass-eating types ( I joke, I joke) abound.  There are typical tourist businesses, rental Jeeps and ATV's, helicopters, souvenirs and condo/ timeshare sellers all over, but it can't take away from the beauty of the area.  Plenty of hiking and camping options everywhere in the surrounding parks.

Cottonwood has a historic "Old Town" section with art shops and restaurants which was interesting although much of it closes early or doesn't open at all on the winter Mondays which happened to be when we were there.  We also went to The Blazing M Ranch which is also in Cottonwood.  They put on western show and dinner that is worth seeing.  They have a little western town set up with shops, a tavern and a booth were we shot a real revolver with wax bullets and a smaller charge but it gave you an idea of shooting a real gun.  Turns out Detra has a better eye than I have, so we won't be purchasing firearms any time soon although...I think I could take her in a quick-draw situation.

Got 'em

Ghost Rider and the Gal

We felt we had to get out and experience the desert landscape up close, so we decided to do a hike around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.  This is a lovely 4.5 mile hike of which we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, flora and fauna.  The map says it is a 4.3 mile hike but we took a wrong turn and added at least a few tenths of a mile.  So it turns out two totally inexperienced and unconditioned hikers walking through the desert, in the sun and the heat can have a very happy 4 mile hike, but that last half mile it was dry, dusty, god forsaken land of the devil... or maybe we were just tired.

 Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, our hike took us around these.

Enjoying the view

How much further?

Find your own water this one is mine!

After our week here, it is a place I would return to if I was looking for a relaxing time to just sit and breathe it all in, a place to go gonzo mountain biking on fantastic trails, golf on pristine courses, hike and sleep under more stars than you have ever seen, take in the arts or an enema at one of the health retreats, be pampered in a 5-star resort or camp under a tarp,

Sedona is the place that has it all!

If you ever need a reset or to get in touch with nature or your inner self, come sit on a red rock in the middle of the desert here, breathe the air, soak in the sun, gaze at the beauty around you.  You will feel recharged, free, small and large at the same time, close to the Earth and a million miles from your demons. 

Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. friends.

Rested, reset and returning,

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Boldly Going Where We've Never Gone Before

Captain's log, SS Whelan Wagon;  In Search of Habitable Climate

Wagon Date - 11.6.2014 - 11.9.2014

  Detra and I landed in Nashville for a few days of boot stompin' fun.  This is a great town to party!  Downtown is bar after bar of good music and cheap beer.  The vibe here is a lot like Memphis only bigger, louder and more obnoxious and I mean that in a nice way.  I don't know if it's the music or the people it draws but there is lots of hootin' and hollerin' going on.

  We stayed at the  KOA Nashville which is about 7mi. from downtown and close to the Grand Ole' Opry. This KOA sits beside a Camping World and two other RV parks (Jellystone and Two Rivers RV parks).  They are rebuilding here but it was on the other side of the park and was no bother to us, like all KOA's it was a nice place with friendly people.  We took advantage of a shuttle for $10/pp round trip, it drops you right in the thick of things and I think is the easiest way to get downtown.

  This week happened to be the week of the CMA Awards so there were plenty of people in town.  We found out they record the Nashville Christmas show while the stars are here for the awards.  We toured the strip Friday afternoon to get the lay of the land and listen to some live music without the nighttime crush.  The bands here don't get paid to play by the bars, they work for tips and the chance to get discovered.  We sat and listened in a few places and ironically really enjoyed The Disappointments

We ate at local favourite Jack's Bar-B-Que which serves very good food with great smoky flavour and three different sauces to try .  They smoke their meat for 18hrs before serving it up cafeteria style to the non-stop line of people that are there from open to close.

Waiting our turn.

Plenty of choices to spend your money.

Mix of new and old on Broadway

  I had to stop by Jack White's studio "Third Man Records", he is a very talented artist with his hand in many types of music and art, some I like and some I don't but he is one of the best out there today.  We walked from the touristy area and through a less than desirable neighborhood to get there but it was on my list and we made it out alive.  There is a small store selling related items and oddities if you are a fan.
  On Saturday night we returned to bar hop and listen to more good music.  Broadway is always busy but the weekends are a crazy crush of people and lines at many of the more popular bars, but never a cover charge unless there is a special headliner.  We spent a few hours in the mass of humanity and headed back to the mothership. 

This was running all over "Do a shot at every red light"

Broadway is a very vibrant place
  We missed quite a few things here, The Opry at The Ryman Theater was sold out, a few historical sites to see and could spend plenty more time listening to the talent here.  Nashville is something we will see again as many of our future travels will pass this way. 
Outside The Opry
Wagon Date; 11.10.2014 - 11.12.2014
 Fighting crowds, big lights, the hustle and bustle of city life left us needing a little quiet R/R.  This is a tough 6 month mission but we will explore and bring peace to wherever we go! We pointed the pilot pod to Natchez Trace State Park and hit the thrusters. 
  A nice journey on a beautiful day and after a short hour and a half we sent the landing party down to paradise.  This park is huge, we hit the front gates and then drove 11 miles to the campground at Pin Oak Lake. 
Our therapist' couch

Dinner on, not breeze, a view like this and the Leafs are on the TV = perfection

 This time of year it was not busy at all we had the pick of many great sites.  A handful of other campers spread throughout the park made it feel like we had it to ourselves.  We picked a spot on the water and had our own private view.  Natchez Trace is a fantastic park and we spent the next two days taking in the view and walking around the park in the warm sunshine.
We could have stayed here forever but mother nature was about to become our tour guide.
Wagon date 11.11.2014 - 11.13.2014
 There was a foreboding presence in the universe, a cold front sweeping toward us.  Taking a page from the star fleet manual we bugged out and hit the warp drive.  Our only hope was to face it head on and bust out the other side. 
 Warm and comfortable in the pilot pod we put in some time and landed at Downtown Riverfront RV Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.  This park is right in town and while not a pretty place, would be the place if you were here for something in the city.  Sitting across the river is the Clinton Presidential Library and an easy walk across the foot bridge from the park.
 Little Rock looks interesting from the warmth of the pod with nice cafes and restaurants in the market area but it was cold and we didn't even give it a chance. The cold hand of Mother nature was telling us to go.
"Warp drive please, Mr. Sulu"
We were cruising nicely when we must have hit some kind of worm hole.  One minute we were on a modern freeway heading west and the next thing we knew we were thrown back in time on to an old Star fleet highway.  Missing pieces and the travellers of a slower paced time, Route 66 is still alive for the nostalgic wanderer. 
 I would have preferred a sixties Corvette to cruise the Mother Road but they are hard to sleep in.  Much of the road is replaced nowadays but there are still broken relics and beautiful restored  things to see along the parts that still exist. 
 We travelled along until we came to our first Diners, Drive-in's and Dives restaurant of this year's trip.  The Rock CafĂ© is a great place to kick things off, it was part of the inspiration for the Disney movie Cars.  Story has it that the owner was the basis for the 'Sally Carrera" character in the movie.
A little piece of history and good food too!

This is what I had, and yes it was good.

 Onto Oklahoma City just an hour down the road for the night.  Roadrunner Rv Park was home for the night, but -5C (22F) meant staying inside and trying to stay warm.  So we set-up the satellite dish and watched the Leafs game.  OKC might be nice, but we were not going to brave the cold, so 'til next time it's...
 " Beam me up, Scotty".
 Warp 7.5 (75 mph - Boy! does that eat the fuel!) all the way to the Tucumcari KOA in New Mexico.  This was our first glimpse of this gorgeous desert landscape that is absolutely stunning when you see it in person.  Here it was still well below freezing and the camp host told us it was 80F just two days before.  The camp host said the temperature had dropped over 45F degrees in 12hrs at the park.  Another quick stay was all we had here as the cold was still pushing us to far off places.
 We were up at dawn packed up and were on the road before our wheels had a chance to freeze to the ground.
"Put the shields up, we're not stopping for anything"
 More scenery to take in along the highway and over the past few days we realise we have to come back this way in the spring if the weather co-operates.  Albuquerque and Santa Fe are places we wanted to spend time in but we will wait until it is warmer to see these areas. 
 So where did the weather break?  Well it started to warm up in Arizona and that is where we find ourselves now.  Sedona, Arizona to be exact, since this past Friday. 
All I can say about the Sedona area right now is... this is where the Earth shouts... 
 "LOOK AT ME!!!!" ...and you can't take your eyes off of her.
I will report back to Star Fleet when my fingers have thawed. 
Live long and prosper,

Friday, 7 November 2014

Tales from the Saddle or How I got to Nashville without my Guitar.

This here is a tale of how we's gittin' to where all we's goin'.  So sit a spell an' I'll catch y'all up to our present day tribulations. 

Well, we broke camp up there in Canadia on a day ya could squeeze ice cream straight from a cow's teat.  We'd bin' sittin' a spell or two weeks at Sherkston Shores waitin' to jump that there border at just the right time.   Had no trouble at all with them ther' border marshalls. 

So the trail was treatin' us right, all the way to a fine place called Cross Creek Campground, that's near Columbus O-hi-O if''n ya didn't know.  It's a good place to stay with nice folk and all the comforts you'd be 'specting from the proprietor.

We sat a night there jus' cause, and next day we lit out for the fine state of Kentucky not knowin' where we'd be hole'd up for the night.  So we pulled off the trail to water the horses a spotted a sign for General Butler State Park just 2.6 miles offa the trail we was on. (hwy.71\S)  Now I'll tell ya, I have no way of knowin' what kind'a man the General was but he's got a mighty purtty campin' park.  We decided to make camp here for two whole nights, so's not to get them saddle sores and such.  Sorry I was all out of flash powder so I didn't git no pict-o-graphs, but I promise to next time I'm through these here parts. 

So now we rode on down ta the KOA in Nashville and here we sit for a time, seein' what is to be seen.  We'll stay outta trouble with the local sheriff  and take in some fiddlers and yodellers before setting out for yonder plains.  I'll weave another tale as long as we don't run in ta more trouble than a rattlesnake in a sleepin' sack.

Dusty from the road,