Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grand Canyon - the South Rim

After finally capturing the elusive Roadrunner we could now put that chapter
of this journey behind us and turn a new page.

A 3hr drive north found us arriving at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Theodore Roosevelt declared the canyon a national monument in 1908.
Speaking of the canyon he said:

"Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is, You cannot improve on it. 
But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, 
and all who come after you, 
as the one great sight which every American should see."

President Roosevelt was a man of balance.
While understanding that natural resources are the fuel of an economy,
he also loved the outdoors and worked at preserving them for future generations.

When he took office in 1901, the US had 5 national parks.
While in office he created:

150 National Forests
51 Federal Bird Reservations
4 National Game Preserves
5 National Parks
18 National Monuments
Plus numerous other environment initiatives.

We've visited several of his preserved areas on this trip alone.

Perhaps the most important however was his creation of 
The National Antiquities Act.
It is this act that gave all following Presidents the lawful authority to protect and preserve.

President Roosevelt summed it up:

"Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, 
rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying that 'the game belongs to the people.' So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method."

Thank you President Roosevelt for thinking of the future generations.

Each year when I visit the National Parks and Forests of this great land, I am reminded
that there are some great things that our government does..

Some things that it does very well.

Its not all bad, or disfunction out there.

The people who run our national lands are doing a great job.

And we get to enjoy it...  tread lightly...
and pass on to future generations.

The Coyote always wins.... Sort of.

Well I promised you a Roadrunner and a Roadrunner you will get!

First I must thank all of you who submitted some very creative ideas on how I
might capture the elusive bird.

We had Hayden suggesting that I use my hunting Doodles covering the
right and left flanks while I charge up the middle....

Theresa - ever true to tradition - suggested that I call ACME...
Seems like when all else failed in those old cartoons ACME came to the rescue.

But the best suggestion came from Bob.
Leave it to the Marines to figure it out.

Bob said to paint a tunnel on a rock and when the road runner ran into it and got knocked
unconscious I would be able to snap the photo.

So Bob...   I took your suggestion.
Only problem was that when I painted the tunnel...  and I chased the Roadrunner...
he ran thru the tunnel..   but when I tried to follow him..
 I hit the rock and was knocked unconscious!
Go Figure.

This morning we departed our home for the last week..
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
I had given it one last try this morning.  I was up at the crack of dawn
(which comes very early here in Arizona)
I scoured the desert...   no Roadrunner to be found.
I could hear them calling and taunting me...

Finally we broke camp, hitched up the coach and started to drive out of the park.

All of a sudden what runs in front of the truck...?
You guessed it...  those same 2 Roadrunners from the other day!
The little rat bast...ds were out to taunt me one last time.

So I hit the brakes and yell to Kate...  get the camera....
She yells: "Where is the camera"???

But he stopped in the road....
Looking at me....
Standing all alert...
then he ran for the bush..

And we got this shot of him running.

He stopped at the side of the road and took one last look at me...
It was like I could hear him saying:
"Go ahead...  make my day!"
Here he is looking all alert.

finally he charged into the bush.
I could hear the shutter on the camera clicking constantly.
I asked Kate - did you get any pictures...  she yells back...  
I don't know.

You can see from the above shot just how hard they can be to find in the bush.

So...  Now I realize that these photos are not going to make it into National Geographic,
or win me the Pulitzer Prize for Animal Photography...

But we got him!
After 2 weeks of constant stalking...  We got him.

It wasn't 30 seconds prior to this that I had just said to Kate that since we
were leaving prime roadrunner country, that I would have to google the
bird to see where else I might continue the hunt...

Now we can go to Grand Canyon in peace!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'll get you yet Roadrunner

I'm still on the track of the rascally Roadrunner..

Of course - this morning I forgot to take the camera when I walked up to
the mens room and on my walk back what was dancing around
the picnic table right out side of our coach???

You guessed it....

So, slowly...  Carefully....
 I go to the truck, get the camera...
move myself into position...
No time to change lenses to the telephoto...

It was like an early morning game of chess...
With me on the losing end.
The roadrunner checking my every move.

I got this one lousy photo.

Look in the circle

I kept stalking them but each time I got the camera up, they would
move into or behind another bush or Cactus.

Up the hill I followed them...
Deeper and deeper into the bush...
Snapping photos but not having confidence that I had caught them...
eventually I had them hiding under a bush...
I figured I'd flush them out and then catch them out in the open for a good shot.

When I got to the bush I looked and looked but
the little rats had disappeared into the desert.

Up to the top of the hill I continue..
Searching all the time...
I've now reached the crest...

All I came back with was this picture of a flowering Banana Yucca

I'm still on the trail Kim.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Oak Creek Canyon

Today - Memorial Day - we traveled back up to Sedona and
beyond, up Oak Creek Canyon towards Flagstaff.

In the West, in most cases, you get into or out of the mountains in a canyon that
follows a stream flowing downhill.
Oak Creek Canyon follows Oak Creek which flows from Flagstaff up around
7,000' into Sedona at around 4,500 feet.
Due to the creek, it is a green oasis.
Is this what you thought Arizona looked like?

Eventually we made it to the top of the canyon and were back up
on the Colorado Plateau.

At the head of the canyon is a National Forest overlook.  At this overlook
the forest service in conjunction with local native american tribes have established
an open air bazaar where you can shop all sorts of interesting wares.

Kate helped the local economy.

She also discussed "Mayberry" (Mt Airy, NC) with one of the
Native American Vendor Ladies who was a huge Andy Griffith Fan and
who wants to make the pilgrimage to Mayberry some day.

Heading back down the canyon you pass Slide Rock State Park.
The park is a water lovers delight.
Oak Creek passes over a bunch of slick rock where you can enjoy a natural
water slide.

Due to it being Memorial Day, we didn't even TRY to get into the park, but
passing by Kate got a picture of the bathers enjoying a cool slide.

Further down the canyon, the red rocks of Sedona once again appear.

And eventually you arrive in "Uptown" Sedona.

Later, we headed back to our home for the last 5 days, 
Dead HorseRanch State Park.

 We took the doods for a long walk around some of the "lagoons" 
natural ponds that are supplied by springs from the surrounding mountains.

Water is life in the desert.
The more there is....   the more there is.

Tomorrow we will spend time back over in Prescott.
Perhaps look at some real estate.
What a great town.  We definitely want to spend some time there in the future.

Weds, hopefully my tire monitor and new internet will arrive via overnight delivery,
I have an appointment at Ford for normal scheduled service, oil change etc.
then Thursday we make the 3.5 hr drive north to Grand Canyon.

Lets hope for an end of the Homolovi dance curse, and the appearance
of the Road runner.

I'm on it Kim.

The curse of the Homolovi

When Kate did the Homolovi dance I warned her that she could be unleashing
a pandoras box of ancient indian curses. 
I'm starting to think that she did.

After her dance we hooked up and headed down here to the Sedona area...
As soon as we started driving, a device in the truck that monitors the pressure & temp of
the trailer tires malfunctioned.  I'm waiting for a replacement to 
be overnighted to me on Weds.

Two days ago I noticed that a vent cover on the roof of the coach had blow off.

Yesterday my Verizon internet device malfunctioned and blew out the Sim Chip.

We drove over to Prescott (1 hr) to replace the whole device but they only had the
sim chip.  They will overnight a replacement device on Weds.
(sound familiar?)

We at least have internet for now but I'm hoping the defective device doesn't blow out the new
sim chip while I await the replacement to arrive.

If things run in 3's then perhaps we are ok now.
But if not........


Yesterday we traveled over the big mountain to Prescott to pick up the simm card.

A few pix of the day:

Coming back from Prescott (pronounced Presskit) you travel AZ 89a over the mountains.
Up to 7,000' then drop down rapidly thru the town of Jerome (where we had lunch with Paul 
the other day) and continue down to Cottonwood at about 3,500'

Here is a pix looking down the canyon toward Cottonwood about
2,000' below.  Sorry but we only had the little camera so the pix are not the best.

The winding, narrow, steep road descends into Jerome.  At times the road is so narrow
that I was using every bit of pavement between the guard rail and the center line,
trying to keep my wide rear axle on my side of the road.

A mining town, Jerome was established on the side of Cleopatra Hill in 1883. 
It was named for Eugene Jerome, a NY investor who owned the mineral rights
 and financed mining there. Eugene Jerome never visited his namesake town.

Jerome was incorporated as a town on March 8, 1899. Local merchant and rancher 
William Munds was the first mayor. 
The town housed the workers in the nearby United Verde Mine, 
which was to produce over 1 billion dollars in copper, gold and silver over the next 70 years.

On 5 February 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be

 "the wickedest town in the West".  A hotbed of 
Prostitution, gambling and vice. 
In 1915 the population of Jerome was estimated at 2,500.
The 2006 census put it around 350.
Every time the poorly treated miners would attempt to unionize, the mine would hire
armed security guards to forcefully round them up and ship them in cattle cars 
to the desert where they would be unloaded and warned under threat of death not to return.

Our lunch with Paul in town the other day, you might remember was in
a Mexican restaurant that had all of these painted cattle skulls.
We did not have a camera with us at that time so when we passed thru town
yesterday, I pulled over to the side of the narrow street and Kate rushed
in to get this shot.

Each one is painted by a different artist.   They were really cool!

Every time Kate leaves the truck, the Doods go on red alert until she returns.

Here they are in the back seat looking for her.

I am still on my quest for a picture of the elusive Roadrunner, but the rascals
continue to confound me.

Yesterday I was sure that I took the camera..

When looking at some available building lots, we were stopped on a quiet road in this
beautiful rural subdivision and all of a sudden, a whole family of about 10 babies and
two adults walked right in front of us.
I scrambled for the camera.......
Where the heck is the camera????
Where the heck is my iPhone???
Get me a paper and pencil...  I'll draw them!!

By the time that we found a camera - they were gone into the bush.

Fear not.....  I'm still on the trail.

Memorial day

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!

While you enjoy a backyard barbecue, a day at the beach, or even a trip thru
the Arizona mountains...  take a moment.... or more... to remember
what todays day off is really about.

Many have died so that we may live free and debate the issues of the day.
Today is about them.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A final push

It' now Saturday morning.
Yesterday was Pauls last day with us.  We dropped him off at the Airport Marriott 
in Phoenix last night so that he could make is 0700 flight this morning back to JFK.

That meant that between yesterday morning and last night we had some speed touring to do.

Our Friday morning began early in the Verde Valley with a delicious breakfast 
at one of my favorite breakfast Bistros....  Ronaldos' Steak House  (aka McDonalds).

While enjoying that breakfast we made tracks to our first Venue
The Montezuma Castle National Monument.

This area of the country is rich with Native American Heritage sites.
There are tens of thousands of sites in Arizona alone.

A source of water is always one of the prerequisites and here in the Verde Valley the
Verde River runs clear and cool...  a perfect source for drinking and growing crops.

This cliff dwelling was part of a complex that housed several hundred inhabitants.

A loop trail thru a cool riverbed glade held interpretive signs explaining how the native plants
were used to sustain life, cure ailments, and used for tools.

After taking the walk it was back to the truck, and make tracks back across the valley
to Tuzigoot National Monument.

Tuzigoot is the site of a 3 story Pueblo with about 110 rooms.  As with most villages, it
was built above the river flood plain.  In this case on the top of a hill 120' above the river.

The villages were designed this way for several reasons:  Safety from floods, mosquitos, 
preserving the moist river bottom for farming, easier defense.

The monument was excavated, stabilized, preserved, and developed like many, by
the WPA - one of the work agencies established by President Roosevelt during the 
Great Depression.  Throughout our journeys over the years we constantly run into
places that were created in this fashion.

Thank you President Roosevelt and all those long gone workers!
While we worry about government spending
 It's so important to preserve Americas great treasures for future generations.
Once they are gone - they are gone forever!

The shot below is from the top floor of the Pueblo.  The higher the floor, generally the
higher was your rank within the social structure.

Notice how green is the river bed.  If you look towards the upper left you
can see the edge of the valley.

The valley is an oasis in the desert.

After Tuzigoot, it was back to the coach real quick to let the Doods out, then back on
the road for a trip North up the Valley to Sedona.

Sedona is famous for its beautiful red rocks.

I'd never been here but had heard so much about it.  I knew it was beautiful but
didn't realize just how beautiful it is.

We did some real fast speed touring thru Sedona, down to Oak Creek and back.

While in Oak Creek we saw some smoke rising and increasing in intensity.
There has been several wildfires burning here in Arizona, and the winds have been
blowing up to 60mph at times which as compounded the problem.

We were concerned a wild fire had started and was going to burn this beautiful area.

We eventually passed the fire and it turned out to be a home in residential area had gone up
in flames and was totally consumed.  The poor residents no doubt lost all as the
structure had burned to the ground.

Another picture of the Sedona Area

We will be staying here at Dead Horse Ranch over the Memorial Day weekend
and will no doubt be back up to Sedona for more pictures.

After our tour thru Sedona, it was South down the valley, and then we climbed up the
Western slope to the town of Jerome.

Jerome is perched on the side of a mountain overlooking the Verde Valley way below.

I had heard about a great Mexican Restaurant, so we went there for a late lunch
and farewell dinner.  It was awesome.  The restaurant had these hand painted
cattle skulls all over the wall.  It was the most interesting artwork.
 Thanks Paul for lunch.

After lunch it was back to the coach, pick up the Doods, Paul packed, and we hit the road
to Phoenix.  It was about a 2hr drive, we left about 4pm, dropped Paul off about 6, and 
arrived back here at 8pm.

Kate left a trail of tears part way up Interstate 17.

We both were sad to see Paul leave.  
He's the perfect travel companion and we all had so
much fun over the past week.  It passed way to quickly.
We just laughed and laughed for hours on end and now the RV is an emptier place without him.

The Hopper!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Homolovi Dance

Homolovi to Dead Horse

While that might seem like a strange title to you
 its simply the name of where we were and where we are.

Homolovi State Park - Winslow, Arizona
The site of a once thriving native american village.  It has an amazing amount of pottery
shards littering the grounds where the village once stood.

Everywhere you looked you could find shards.

Don't take any though...
First it's Illegal...
Second - it's just wrong...
Third and most importantly - it's REAL bad Karma!

It was the most amazing thing to just find this stuff everywhere.
It was so special to hold a piece and think about the person who created it so many
hundreds of years ago.
What was their life like?  How big was their family?

I so much wanted to take a small piece with me but it was just wrong....

Kate entertained us with a native american dance
It's on Utube...
Soon a link will be on the blog...
It was interesting...  We laughed our butts off!

After our visit to Homolovi I ruins, we packed up camp and hit the road to
Cottonwood, Arizona and Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

We are now there, on a mountain side overlooking the Verde Valley.
It's another beautiful park.

Tomorrow, sadly we will be delivering Paul back to Phoenix for his early
Saturday morning flight back to NY.

Tonight we celebrated with some huge Fred Flintstone NY Strip Steaks
and a bottle of Opus One (his favorite) which we purchased last year when we 
visited the Opus One Vineyard in Napa Valley.

Tomorrow is another full day.
We have several historic sites to visit before we head to the airport.

I should have some great photos to share tomorrow - but it might be Saturday before i get to
blog next.

Till then... 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meteor Crater

Well today we finally said good bye to Show Low and hit the road.
Our destination was a short 75 miles and was a bit of Deja vue.
We are back at our campsite in Homolovi State Park just north of Winslow.

There is several ways to get to our next destination just outside of Sedona...

We chose to make a big loop  (see the on-line map on the blog and you'll understand).
By staying again at Homolovi, we are able to park and make a day trip to Meteor Crater.

Meteor Crater was created about 50,000 years ago when a meteor about 150' diameter
decided to hit this part of the country at about 26,000 mph.

The end result was this.

The crater is about 1 mile across and about 700 feet deep.
It could fit over 20 football fields at the bottom.
If it was a stadium, it would seat over 2 million people.
It was used by all the Apollo Astronauts for practice prior to the moon landings.

Our self portrait

Kate gets up close and personal

Some of the local residents.

One of the test capsules used in the Apollo Program

Tomorrow we have a short 2 1/2hr drive to the Sedona, Az area.
Our next port of call for 5 days will be Dead Horse Ranch State Park
in Cottonwood, Az.

Behind the Scenes... the Making of Tales from the Road

For some of you this blog will be a snoozer, but I've had many people
write and ask questions about how we do what we do.
The questions have ranged from:

How do you work from the road?
What is an average day like?
How do you blog from all the places you go?
What's it like pulling that big 5th wheel?

I've gotten lots of repeat questions from different people, so I thought that if I'm getting them from
some - perhaps more would like to know.

How do I work from the road?

Working from the road is no different than working from a home office.
You need certain things in both places for it to work effectively.

First you need the type of job that allows it -If I was a school teacher - it would be pretty difficult.
Second you need a boss with an open enough mind to allow you to prove the concept works
Third - I need a good internet connection.
Forth, I need a way to stay in touch via phone.
Fifth, I need the accessories (printer scanner etc).
Finally - you need to have the discipline to remember the job has to come first...  period.

I have one and two covered.

My internet connection is provided by a Verizon MIFI device.

This little device is like a cell phone but wirelessly provides me high speed internet.
It's about the size of a credit card, just a bit thicker.
At also provides a wireless signal so that 5 computers can all share the same connection
at the same time...  no software required.

I can drive down the road with it running and receive email on my laptop, iPad, cell phone etc.

I use special software that allows me to securely connect to my office network in upstate NY
over an encrypted connection so that I can upload or download sensitive documents
safely.  I can print something out on a printer in NY from a campsite in Arizona with ease.

My office phone rings on my cell phone so I am connected virtually 24/7...  just like at home.

I have a printer and scanner, both portable size, that give me the final piece of the puzzle.

Last is the discipline.  I guess I'm fortunate in that dept.

I make sure that I work extra hard to deal with problems that arise IMMEDIATELY.
With the freedom comes responsibility.

Driving down the road, Kate will read me my email and I'll dictate a response so that most
times the person sending gets an immediate response.  Of course there might be times
where we are temporarily out of range of internet but now a days not often.

My usual day starts about 5am local time.
I grab a cup of coffee and immediately get on the computer and address any 
issues that might have come in over night.

If we are traveling that day - I get 3hrs work done before we move.  If not - more.

There are many times when I might need to pull over and get on the phone, or
on the computer to address something more detailed.  If so - so be it.
No big deal.

After our day - I usually work from 4pm or so to finish up any lingering things
that I could not take care of during the day.

It's funny, but without the distractions of working in the office I am usually able to
see things so much clearer and from a different perspective.
Same for the phone.

Enough about work...  I think you get the picture

Blogging is my second job.
once again you need a good internet connection.
Then you need the discipline to do it after your work day is over.

Many times I just want to go to bed but I have you - my loyal readers - who immediately
start sending me emails any day I miss a post.

Its good to know that you enjoy the blog.  That's what makes it fun for me.

Good internet and a free account with Google Blogger is all it takes to start.
Perhaps a camera too.

Before I upload any photos, I first process them thru photoshop to reduce the file size
and make them faster to upload....  remember I'm on a mobile connection.

Other than that - it's easy.
Again - it just takes the discipline to stick with it.
That's why I have great respect for my other blogger buddies out there who also post.
It's a lot of work posting and we love to hear back from our readers.

OK...  Lastly - pulling the 5'ver.

Being an ex Over the Road Trucker helps, but is certainly not required.
For me pulling this thing is second nature.
Our combined weight is 25,000 lbs and we are 56' long
so some things must be considered...

You must be patient and not tailgate.  You can't stop as fast as a car.
Everyone is going to want to cut in front of you.  Let them.  Don't fight it.  You'll lose.
Keep leaving space for them to do so and not get upset about it.
Be careful on long downhill grades...  you can burn out and lose your brakes
if you go to fast and use them too much.
I go down hills at a speed that allows the engine to hold me back and not use the brakes.
This saves them for emergency use.
Try not to turn down a dead end.  (its not fun when you do)
Watch out for low bridges.
Don't try to drive thru the McDonalds drive-thru.

Backing takes some practice but in no time you'll back into spaces like a pro.

It's really pretty easy to pull a rig like ours.  It just takes a realization of what
you have back there, and a acceptance that it's not a car so don't expect
to drive like one or make the same time.

Its not the destination....  it's the journey.

For those of you still awake - thanks for reading.
Hope you found this informative.  

Maybe we'll see you out on the road!