Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Army Arrives

If there was any question that Spring is on the way,
the first tiny blooms are starting to appear on the
Sonoran Desert Floor.

This morning when I went outside, the "backyard" was speckled
with these little gems.


Around 1230 local I noticed that my Solar Output had peaked for the
day.  As the sun gets higher I continue to get new record high output.
Today we hit 475W and 30 amps going into the batteries.
Total harvest today was 207 amp hrs.


Around 2 we had to head to the ranger station as I had some work related
correspondence to put in the mail.

Crossing the Roosevelt Bridge.


Looking back at the bridge.

The dam is just out of sight to the right.
I'll get a picture of that in a day or two from a better vantage point.


Looking up the lake.


Around dinner time tonight I heard the unmistakeable drone of 4 big turboprop
engines running overhead.  Of course I had to investigate and saw this C130
flying low.   His behavior led me to believe that something was up, so I stayed
out longer while my dinner got cold...


Sure enough, a while later he passed by low, and all of a sudden...


Notice the difference in the color of the sky and you can see how long I
was watching this guy...  The sun had dipped below the mountains.

Safe landing boys!


Across the lake the sun had painted the mountains a fiery red.


That concluded another day.
Soon the big ol moon will rise...  oh that's another show!

Thanks to all the well wishers..  Kate and I are feeling a bit better
each day.   Tonight I could kinda sorta even taste dinner so that is progress.

If we had gone to Mexico with Jim & Kristi we could have gotten some
Z-Pack like they did and perhaps kick this thing faster...  but alas, here
in the states you have to spend a fortune and see a doctor to get some
simple medications so its tough it out a bit longer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Windy Hill - Lake Roosevelt

Well I finally dragged my sick old butt off the couch..
packed up camp...
stuffed myself behind the wheel...
and put in 3 hrs of road time.

We've relocated to the Windy Hill Campground in Tonto National Forest
located on Lake Roosevelt.

In the view below you can make out the lake off in the distance behind the
picnic ramada.  You can see the back of our camper just right of center.


The windy hill campground is large but almost empty so we have
lots of peace and quiet.  There are no services so we are back to boon docking
and living off the grid but that's just fine with us.
The lack of services keeps the hordes away.

Our new home - tucked away in the mesquite bush.


Due to the winter rains the desert has sprung grass!
The Doodles are excited...  they have grass to walk on!


The campground has several shower buildings.
All the buildings are solar powered.
We'll take advantage of the showers while here which will allow
us to extend the range of our fresh water and holding tanks.


Nearby are the Tonto National Monument, Roosevelt Dam, and
the Apache Trail, so stay tuned for more good stuff in the upcoming blogs.

We arrived here today about 1530 local time and haven't done much exploring.
Since I'm still feeling kind of weak and uninspired at the moment, 
this was just meant as a quick update as to our whereabouts so
I'll leave tonights blog at that.
nighty night all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tucson just got quieter

Today our buds Jim and Kristi flew the coop...
They are Mexico Bound....
Sandy beaches, Palm Trees & the Pacific.

After a farewell dinner and a cold snowy night,
we awoke to a white mantle of snow on the nearby mountains.


As the sun rose higher and the day started to warm up,
Jim and Kristi began packing up the wagon, hitching up the
mules and soon it was time for good byes.

Kate posed with Kristi wearing the earnings that Kate made from
Stone purchased at the Gem show.
This was just one more thing that Kristi taught Kate during our
5+ weeks of traveling together.


Soon the space next to us was empty and just like that...
we were once again solo travelers.

Today we extended our stay here till Sunday.
Kate and I both are nursing colds and I'm really not up to
traveling and all the associated stuff required, so its time just to lay low 
and recuperate for a while.
Kate made a big pot of Chicken Soup today so we had that for dinner.
If that doesn't fix us up...  nothing will!

Just as I sit here writing the nights blog, and the sun is setting in the
Western sky - a big Class A Motorhome pulled into the space next to us.   

It was like they were putting the exclamation point on 
The Parting of the Ways...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A temporary roadblock

Last night we had another great Arizona sunset.


Do you ever get tired of them?

It was reflected on the rear window of the coach


It turned out to be our Gilbert Ray farewell...

With the winter storm moving thru the area, heading up
to Roosevelt Lake today was out of the question.
It was my hope that the good folks at Gilbert Ray County Park
would let us stay a day or two beyond the 7 day limit but
that was not to be... you know how government can be....
  so rain, cold, snow and all - we had to pack up.

So we headed back to Lazy Days RV Park - the same park we were in a week
ago when we arrived from Imperial Dam.

Its a good place to hunker down and wait for the weather to pass.

Just as we arrived - around noon time - the snow started in earnest.


At Tucsons elevation it is not a problem but for us to reach Roosevelt Lake,
we had to travel extensively around the 4-5,000' level where the snow is much
more serious.

Ripe Oranges on the tree make for strange bedfellows
with the snow.


Tonights dinner was another bittersweet affair.
Tomorrow is a final parting of the ways.
Jim & Kristi head south west to Mexico.
And in a day or two - we head Northeast to Roosevelt.
We've been traveling together since Quartzsite - a good 5 weeks or so
Tonight we had some of Jims Killer Chili and Cornbread.
Yum!


The problem with this meal is it's quite fattening.
This is the results after we ate it.



With our buddies departure Kate is loseing her Artistic Mentor.
Kates had 5 weeks of non-stop arts and crafts.

Here is one of the gourds that she made.



Needless to say - the basement of the RV is filled with dozens of Gourds
awaiting the skilled touch of Kate on some future project.

For now it's hunker down time.
I'm thinking we might stay here till Saturday morning so that we can
make the 3hr drive up to Roosevelt on a weekend.

Its a large National forest campground - we'll be off grid again living off of
our solar panels but the campground has hot showers so that we can extend our time
before needing to dump our tanks.
I expect that we should have the place just about to ourselves, but 
it remains to be seen.

Verizon map shows that we should have good WIFI signal...

Our next adventure starts in a couple of days!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Weather turns...

Blizzard Warning

Tomorrow we bump up against our 7 day stay limit here at Gilbert Ray.
Our intent was to head into the mountains and spend some time at
the Windy Hill Campground on Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest.
With the weather forecast below and the fact that we would be
driving over Mountain Passes exceeding 5,000'  -  I think we need to wait a day or two.
Tomorrow we will plead our case at the office and see if they will let us stay.



Heavy snow expected.

The Winter Storm Warning has been lowered to 3000 feet. The Winter Storm Warning has been replaced by a Blizzard Warning in some Mountain locations.

Blizzard Warning in effect from 6 am to 11 pm MST Wednesday.
Winter Storm Warning is cancelled.

The National Weather Service in Tucson has issued a Blizzard Warning, which is in effect from 6 am to 11 pm MST Wednesday. This replaces the Winter Storm Warning. 

Impacts: hazardous driving conditions are expected with snow and blowing snow. Whiteout conditions are expected. 

Timing: expect accumulating snow to begin around Sunrise Wednesday morning. The Heaviest snowfall is expected to occur from 9 am to 7 pm Wednesday. Snow showers will decrease from west to east by late Wednesday evening. 

Snow accumulations: storm totals of 7 to 14 inches between 5000 and 7000 feet, and from 14 to 19 inches above 7000 feet. Locally higher amounts are possible at highest mountain elevations. 

Winds: strong and gusty winds are expected. Southwest to west winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts to between 50 and 55 mph are possible.
For a detailed view of the hazard area, visit http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/wrh/whv/?wfo=twc.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Saguaro National Park

Before I get to todays activities, first I should mention
that I'm back in business computer wise.

Some repair work by the good folks at Simutek in Tucson..
they were able to get most of my data off the old mac..
(what a great outfit Simutek is)
a trip to the Apple Store for a new MacBook with retina display..
Some data transfer and voila...
Easy peasy - Japaneesey.

Another reason why I love the Mac.
This would have been windows hell and taken days to get
everything reinstalled.
Instead - I was getting caught up on work an hour after getting home last night.

While I'm busy during the day working, Kate has been busy
with Kristi (I got the "I")
getting some excellent instruction in the ancient arts.


Kristi is an excellent and patient teacher and Kate has been having t
the time of her life learning Gourd making and now jewelry.

Its detailed work...


But the time spent shows in the results.
Kate shows off her Mother-of-Pearl necklace.


So that brings me back to today - it's Sunday and after a morning of
getting caught up with work, Kate and I headed off for the afternoon
for a quick trip to Saguaro National Park which is only a mile or two
from where we are camped here in Gilbert Ray.

We headed off on a dirt road for some scenic backcountry touring


We stopped at the Signal Mountain Picnic Area for a short hike.
The Picnic area is another great legacy left by the CCC
(Civilian Conservation Corps)
Kate is siting on a picnic ramada from that era.


The CCC was created by President Roosevelt during the depression to provide
work for young men 18-25 yrs old.  A dollar a day was the motto!
They worked on projects all over the country but especially here in the west.
All the projects were conservation related on government lands.
The men earned $30 per month and were required to send $25 home to
their families.
In our travels we come across, and enjoy, their great 
and enduring works time and time again.
What a great Legacy!

Beyond the picnic area we stopped for todays self portrait.


Further down the trail...  just past the rattlesnake warnings..
We came upon the Petroglyphs


This area has been inhabited for over 10,000 years
and those before have left their mark



One might wonder at first why or how people could live here in
the desert - but it really is a vibrant eco-system.
The Sonoran desert is home to over 200 species of animals
and 600 plant species.

Does the photo below look like desert?


The secret is adaptation.

Below - the Palo Verde tree has green bark.
The bark is green so that even during times of drought - when the leaves
would shrivel up and fall off - the plant will still conduct photosynthesis
and produce food.


The Barrel Cactus leans toward the south.
Who needs a compass when you have Barrel Cactus to guide you?


There are several different varieties of the Cholla Cactus.
(Pronounced Choy-ya) 
Their thorns have microscopic barbs that go into you with ease..
but then like a fish hook - they don't come out easy.
This one is a Teddy Bear Cholla.


The Ocotillo is another common desert plant.
It is interesting in that is usually looks like it is dead.
During the dry season it is grey and weathered.
(the following 2 photos borrowed from Wikipedia)


Then as soon as it rains - in a matter of a couple of days
it blooms and becomes covered with green leaves that last for a short period
of time depending on the weather.

The first time I saw one turn green I had to do a double take...
"Wasn't that plant dead yesterday?"


Now as spring approaches we are soon to be treated
with the blooming of the desert wild flowers.
Each year is different due to weather but I think this will be a good
one because of the modest rains we've had since Christmas.

As you can see in some of the previous photos - there are patches of
green grass everywhere there is some shade...  There is moisture in
the ground....   The flowers are getting ready to pop!

We'll it's time to run...
The sun is getting lower on the Western horizon and it looks like its
going to be another stellar sunset.
I sure don't want to miss it...   do you?



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Techno Hell & Another day in Paradise

It's amazing how beautiful the sunrises and sunsets are here in Arizona.
Each day I get up early, grab my coffee and watch as the days light develops.
Slowly the morning unfolds.
Some days are diamonds....
Some days are gold.
From minute to minute the scene changes.
If you look now and then forget about it...
you might miss the best part.
It changes constantly.
Wait and watch....  give it time.
Don't think you've seen it all.
If you do you're gonna miss a bunch.
Not happy with todays colors???
Just wait a minute.

Sunsets are the same.


My computer has been acting up lately.
Yesterday it passed away

So today was spend in red alert trying to get a new machine
so that I can get my office up and running as soon as possible.

Hours were spent visiting a Mac Repair Shop, and finally
the Apple Store in Tucson.

The initial prognosis is that my data might be recoverable...
Tomorrow we will see.

I have a back up drive that I use religiously at home and forgot to
bring it this trip.  If I had that - it would be no big deal.

So tonight I'm blogging from Kates computer.

Same fiery red sunsets off the Tucson Mountains..


but just seem different describing them from this machine.

We enjoyed our Friday night cocktail hour with Jim and Kristy
in our site just before the sun went down.


Then as the sun went down on another beautiful Southwestern day
it said goodbye with another fantastic light show.


Each night as I lay in bed I hear the coyotes howling in the distance.
Sometimes they are close by.
Its wild and wonderful.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day



Happy Valentines Day to Kate.
My Light, my love, my life.



From Papa & the Doods too.

Happy Valentines day to all you other lovers out there too!

Gilbert Ray Campground - Tucson Mountain Park




Today we saddled up the horses and made the exhausting
13 mile drive west to Gilbert Ray Campground in
the Tucson Mountain Park.

Although only a scant 13 miles - it is light years in contrast to
 the RV Park we left behind.

Situated next to Saguaro National Park in one of the most
magnificent Saguaro forests in the world, it is 20,000 acres
in size and is one of the largest preserves owned and managed
by a local government.

Tucson is just on the other side of the mountains below.
 (The Tucson Mountains)


The first thing that we noticed was the quiet.
A peaceful Oasis just outside of the Tucson Metro

The next thing we noticed was the desert landscaping in the campground.
A great deal of time and effort must have been spent putting so many
indigenous plants throughout....
Then you realize that the desert beyond the campground is identical...
This is natures landscaping and its beautiful!

Our view out the back window


I rehung the Hummingbird feeder and within minutes we had
a colorful visitor.


While I worked inside Kate found a warm sunny spot to curl
up with a good book.


Later it was off thru the wilderness to the other side of the campground
loop for dinner at Jim and Kristys house.


Not wanting to drag my camera over to dinner,
I took Kates camera and got a few shots of the setting sun.
Tonights show promises that we are going to have a fantastic week
with plenty of great photo opportunities.
Tomorrow I'll break out the DSLR.

Just like our stay at Catalina State Park over Christmas,
the setting sun sets the mountains to the east ablaze.


Linds...  I know that you recognize those colors.



After dinner, the 4 of us took a stroll thru the campground in the dark
and enjoyed the peace and quiet under a star-filled sky that was
punctuated with a waxing crescent moon.

Now back at our house we hear the coyotes howling in the distance.

We will be here in Gilbert Ray for the next week.

Life is good.