Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Exploring, exploring!

Whitlow Ranch Rd

Whitlow Ranch Rd

Road to Cochran

Coke ovens

Lower part of side canyon

Upper side canyon

Lower side canyon

Waiting to wreck your running board or rocker panel

Last Chance Mine area

Hewitt Station Rd

Hewitt Station Rd

Hewitt Station Rd

December 27, 2008
We stayed around home this morning even though it did turn sunny. We had a nice white frost which hung around quite awhile after the sun came out. Aileen made a mincemeat pie using the mincemeat she made from scratch. We had some for supper and it was delicious. I went to the library for more books and took Mitzy for a longer walk.
After lunch we took our new county map and went to Cochran. The roads have mostly dried up now so no problems. You wouldn’t want to drive that road during or shortly after a heavy rain as much of it follows washes and it looks like the water really boogies down them. We met many bikes and ATVs along the way plus a few vehicles. The big surprise was getting to the end of the road and finding a new Class C motor home and a large 5th wheel towed by a semi! And Aileen was worried about us in our 4x4! We were able to see the Coke Ovens across the Gila River but no way to get to them. They were built in 1882 and are conical 30 foot high rock structures. They actually produced charcoal (not coke) from Mesquite to help in the mine processors. There is a ford across the river at low water. We talked to a Jeep guy and he said last time he crossed it was hood deep and it’s way deeper today after this rain. It was only 33F when we got out of the pool tonight. Guess we’ll have a good frost again since it’s mostly clear. They’re talking mid to high 60s this coming week so hope they are right. We tried to get back to Florence on Whitlow Ranch Rd and after getting 2/3 of the way through met some guys in a pickup who had been quite lost down there and said it dead ended. Since it was nearly dark we decided to turn around and take the known route home.
Dec 28
We went off exploring again this morning. Drove down the Diversion Dam Rd which we should have connected with last night from Whitlow Ranch Rd but it didn’t happen. The gate Randy had told me about is before the roads join so it is a good thing we turned back last night or we would have been returning in the dark. There doesn’t appear to be any way to get through even though the most recent county map shows the roads all joining.
Next we drove Price Rd up to Box Canyon. We stopped for lunch where there had been some kind of development. Some one came along and said it was the former site of the Last Chance Mine. After lunch we drove another ½ mile or so and parked as we’d heard the canyon wasn’t for the likes of our monster truck. We’d heard the truth! We walked the canyon for ¾ of a mile or so and found where we’d definitely damage the running boards trying to get over a large rock. We saw dozens of ATVs and dirt bikes, quite a number of Jeeps and other sport utes plus even a few jacked up pickups. Some ATV riders told us about a side canyon worth looking at so we did on our return to the truck. ATVs can access the side canyon for about ¼ mile then it is foot exploration only. Mitzy and I went another few hundred yards and were topping out of the canyon. Included pictures will be titled side canyon. I treated Aileen to Chinese food for supper. There is a very good Chinese restaurant just as you enter Florence.
Dec 30
Yesterday was a rest day mostly. I went to the library. We looked at a used park model some old people have for sale. They moved to the park next door so they don’t have any stairs. Some parts of the trailer were interesting but the price was more than we would pay. Later, we went to Coolidge for groceries. Spent an hour in the pool later. Our neighbour, Carol, knew we’d be there so she came and visited and heard all about our previous day’s exploration (Box Canyon) until she got too cold. She should have jumped in the pool with us!
Today we drove up to Queen Valley, about 22 miles north of here. We were just checking the area over when we saw a sign for Queen Valley RV Park. Sounded interesting so we followed all the signs and finally found it tucked away in a little valley on the outskirts of the village. It was very quiet and felt really good, the residents seemed very friendly and they have all types of happenings and arts and crafts to keep one occupied. There’s a Jeep club, ATV club, hiking club, music jams Friday night, art, quilting, library, puzzles, pool tables, swimming pool/hot tub, saunas and the list goes on. The big downside is you can’t buy your lot, only rent. $3210 per year includes everything except hydro. $500 per month for an RV lot. So you can put a park model on it and pay $3210 per year which would mount up after awhile. And, your park model will depreciate whereas if you own the lot the price should remain constant or even rise over the years. The park is about 20 miles from the outskirts of Greater Phoenix so not too far removed but nice and peaceful. There is a nice 18 hole golf course right in Queen Creek village but there didn’t seem to be much else for commercial. Maybe we missed some of the village.
After leaving Queen Creek we took the Hewitt Station Rd east then north. As we got closer into the Superstition Mountains, the scenery became very interesting. Once again lots of ATVs and of course gunfire. I just can’t understand the American’s fascination with guns; it doesn’t seem to matter where you get to, you can hear gunfire. After awhile the road became very knobby and rough. Then I met a Jeep who told me the road climbed up to a pass in about 6 miles and it was very icy up there. Given that we weren’t bargaining on that, we turned around. Aileen walked Mitzy back through the rough section and let her play in the running water in the wash while I drove further to find a turn around. I wasn’t out of sight yet when Aileen twisted her ankle a little so I had to run her cane back to her. When we returned to Hewitt Station Rd we continued on to the east and popped out on Highway 60 a few miles west of Superior near the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. From there it was only 25 minutes home. Just as we reached the highway, we saw Happy Camp Rd head east so we’ll have to come back sometime to drive it. Carol, next door, has a map which shows some ruins up it although none of my maps give any hints about that. No visitors during our pool time tonight. Most nights we have some people lean over the wall expressing amazement someone would actually be in the water.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas has come and gone

Palo Verde street
Saguaro cactus with lights on Plao Verde street

Paper bag luminaries which lined all the streets in the park
We’ve kept a pretty low profile the past few days. The truck hasn’t left the park since the 22nd. We do take lots of walks around the park. Three days ago I got the printer out from under the bed and made some prints. Then the next couple of days I made cards. We gave some to several neighbours as they kept bringing us gifts – mostly edible. I’m almost out of the card stock I bought years ago so will have to come up with something else pretty soon.
Christmas Eve we joined quite a few neighbours and strolled around four of the blocks singing carols. Following that, all the carolers from all the blocks met at the clubhouse for cookies, hot chocolate and mulled cider. We were going to stay for the church service later but it was too warm in there for Aileen so we went to the pool instead. And that of course, was pleasant. Christmas night it was way warmer (54F) but wind gusts of about 35 mph made it more exciting, especially when one of the lawn chairs came sliding across the deck and into the pool. Fortunately it was at the opposite end from us. It was neat watching the palm trees rocking and rolling. It’s amazing how much noise the palm fronds make when the wind blows.
We joined 5 other couples at the Dalgleish’s for turkey potluck supper on Christmas night. They’re a great couple from Kamloops who we didn’t know until we came here. We had two hours of happy hour then a huge feast. What a hoot! Everybody seemed to have a great time. I have sore cheeks from laughing so hard and long. Kathy, the hostess, was the youngest at 58 and Gordon down in the 200 block of our street was 80. The rest were spread out in between. So now we have an invitation to another potluck with this group plus nine or ten couples (about 30 people) in the small meeting room at the front office on New Years Day. We have tickets to the New Years Eve bash at the clubhouse also. Then on January 4th we go to Joanie’s 70th birthday party in the annex. We’ll have to stagger out of here and over to Quartzsite for a rest!

Monday, December 22, 2008

No snow here

Over 40 arms on this Saguaro

In the old turquoise mine

It was a forbidding start

Calient Casa del Sol from Poston Butte

Desert wildflowers behind Caliente

This is Sophie's tent on the couch where she spends a lot of her day
December 19, 2008
The sun has shone some for us the past couple of days but not consistently. It’s staying much cooler as well. The night before last we were awakened at about 2am by wind rocking the trailer and rain pounding on the side window. I still got up with the alarm to go out with the hiking group. Only 10 people showed up; guess the others decided to sleep and stay warm. We went up toward Apache Junction for our hike. We were in the vicinity of the Lost Dutchman Mine but I have to report we were not successful in discovering where old Jacob got his pure gold! We did go part way into an abandoned turquoise mine. It was very overcast for the first part of the walk then the sun blessed us and everything was beautiful. The road was another story. Didn’t need 4x4 but we slithered around several places and the truck has a heavy layer of red mud on the running boards and fenders. Florence doesn’t even have a coin car wash so next time we venture further afield we’ll have to watch for one. There is a guy here who uses a portable pressure washer but it’s more expensive.

Dec 20
I decided today was time for me to walk over to Poston Butte which is the local “mountain” for Florence. My GPS told me it is 248 feet higher than here in the park. It was 3.53 kms to the top and again the GPS told me it was 2.51 kms as the crow flies. I had heard there were petroglyphs on the Butte but although I scrambled all around the rock bluffs, I found none. It was a good walk in the warm sun and was 8.95 kms by the time I returned. It seems incredible the weather BC and all the north country is experiencing when we’re in this temperate spot.
Dec 21
We had frost here this morning. It’s nice having a hydro hookup as we can leave the little heater on low to keep the chill off. We’ll miss that when we move on to Quartzsite next month. The air was exceptionally clear today and I put my shorts on again. I’ll probably be back to denims again tomorrow as we expect showers for the next six days. I visited the library again today and read one of the books this afternoon sitting in the sun. They have a well stocked library and also lots of videos and cds/dvds to borrow. We went for a walk around the park and visited with several people. I’m sure I’ve mentioned how friendly most people are.
I heard a funny one today concerning Hiro and Dona down the street. They are going to Kamloops for Christmas as they have a first grandchild to celebrate. They were to fly out this morning but Aileen ran into Dona later and they were still here. I don’t know if they got turned back at the airport or not but Hiro’s passport had expired so they can’t fly across the border. So now they fly to Bellingham on Tuesday and drive across the border then have to make their way to Kamloops.
Dec 22
I went to the club house announcements after breakfast then we went off to Coolidge this morning for our last grocery run before Christmas. The eastern sky was clear first thing but by lunch time we were under heavy cloud. We have a chance of showers for the next six days but no snow in the forecast. We talked to an old guy yesterday who said he’d seen snow in the park only twice over the years. We did see snow on some of the hills to the east. We keep reading about you people all getting hammered with winter. I saw online this morning that Environment Canada is predicting that the first all Canada white Christmas since 1971 is possible.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A slow time for us

From the top:
Fish Hook Barrel Cactus fruit
The upper Gila River (actually has water)
An interesting incline mountain
View east at 5,000 feet south of Globe
Our trailer lights
December 12, 2008
We did a little decorating at the front of the trailer this morning. It looks okay tonight when it was dark enough to turn on. The sky was mostly overcast all day but did come through with a sunset tonight. Showers are still forecast for the next week but nothing like the BC forecast. I’ll take this and be quiet. We took several walks around the park today separately and together. Mitzy will sleep well tonight.

Dec 13
We went to the clubhouse for breakfast this morning. We had pre ordered our own menu selection several days ago and breakfast was very good. We were surprised to awake to clear skies this morning but aren’t complaining. We took advantage of the weather by taking a drive to Globe then south west to Winkelman and on down to Oracle Junction returning to Florence via #79. Shortly after leaving Globe we went over a 5,000 foot pass. It was only 12C and the wind was just howling – brisk! We managed to find a side road out of the wind to have our lunch later after we dropped back down in elevation. I had heard something about Aravaipa Canyon so we drove the 9 mostly gravel miles up to the ranger station. It turns out that the canyon is off limits unless one has a valid permit as it is a restricted quota wilderness area and has been since 1972. Because it is one of the only areas in the desert that has dependable year round water, it has a large collection of rare wildlife and plants.

Dec 14
Boy did it rain in the night! We woke up at 4am and the rain was pounding on the roof. Aileen was pretty tired this morning so she went back to bed after breakfast and I woke her at noon. We kept a low profile most of the day. Mitzy and I went for a couple of long walks around this park and through the next park.

Dec 15
We only had a light shower today but the temperature only made it to 46F. That’s much better than many places. Bev and Kev flew in to Calgary last night from Mexico where it was +28C. This morning they awoke to -45C with the windchill! Salmon Arm reported -21C and much of Vancouver Island has snow. That puts things a little more into perspective for us. However, I do wish the sun would shine!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pictures from the top:
Freeway overpass on the way into Phoenix
Florence yard lit up
The hiking group
Dec 8, 2008
We went to the Monday morning announcements up at the clubhouse which turned into a bit of a marathon; Aileen and Randy finally bailed out as they’d had enough. Later I took my laptop up to the clubhouse to get the blog online. Later still I took both laptops up and sent out our Annual Christmas letter to family and friends. I had to use Aileen’s laptop to look up the addresses as we left our email address book in storage. Then I found out I was still talking about Christmas in California when if fact we are staying here! Oh well.
At one point while I was out walking, I met Wendy near the mini golf so we had a bit of a game. We proved we aren’t golfers! I volunteered to cover our pool and hot tub up for this week and will probably do it until we leave. An old guy from Ontario has been doing it for the past week and was happy to relinquish the chore.
I was helping do dishes tonight when Randy came knocking to tell us about the sunset. The sky all around was coloured; a 360 degree sunset! After I took some shots of that from in front of the trailer, we four went into Florence to check out some lights an old guy was bragging about to me at the light parade the other night. It turns out he actually did have bragging rights. His yard was pretty full and bright.

Dec 9
Aileen played her first mini golf this morning with Wendy. She and I played a game after lunch and she got a hole in one on the second hole! Aileen said it was only 40F this morning when she went to the showers. There was a nasty wind all morning also. It was nice by 1 PM for awhile then the wind picked up again. Yuma and area had severe wind warnings this morning and north of there had dust storm warnings. There were also warnings for the east-west freeways warning of difficulty driving with high vehicles as the wind would tend to make straight driving difficult.

Dec 10
Beautiful clear skies all day but there was a tang in the air even at the warmest. I had to use my wind pants over my shorts this morning and evening when walking Mitzy. Aileen and Wendy went to the clubhouse this morning for a ladies clothing and watch sale. Prices were up to 50% off but they both returned empty handed. I think they enjoyed the looking though.
After lunch, Aileen and I drove Wendy and Randy into their hotel in Scottsdale. They get a free shuttle from there to the airport in the morning and will stay with Randy’s daughter in Vancouver tomorrow night. She’ll put them on the ferry Friday and then its back to work for Wendy until she can get more holidays in February. Aileen and I found some mincemeat in the second large store we tried. The other day Safeway in Coolidge had never heard of mincemeat they said and the WalMart Supercentre didn’t get any this year. We did more shopping later and Aileen also bought the ingredients to make mincemeat from scratch. I bought a bag of oranges off a truck here Monday so the peel will be the start for her. Most grocery items here are the same price as BC then there’s the huge hit with our dollar so they are close to 30% more expensive. Milk and eggs are a bit cheaper. However, we are saving big time on gas. I paid $1.559 US$ (US gallon) for regular today which would equate to about 54 cents Cdn$ per litre.
We were so late shopping that we had supper at a Wendy’s restaurant arriving home about 6:30. Aileen had an email from her friend Edna that she and Ray are coming to Yuma soon. Since we plan to go to Quatzsite via Yuma, we will try to get together. We went to the pool later tonight and had it all to ourselves as we expected. It was pretty quiet with just us. I guess all the locals who weren’t at Bingo or cards were glued to their TVs. Aileen helped me cover the pool when we finished. Our landlord has returned home so I’ll have to see him about staying longer and giving him more money. They had to fly home to Washington suddenly as his 94 year old mother in law had broken her wrist and needed to be moved to more care. They were gone 2 ½ weeks.

Dec 11
Mitzy had a thrill this morning on the way to the dog park before daylight. Aileen reports there was a dove sitting on the road trying to suck heat out of the pavement and it let Mitzy come up and nudge it. There were other doves along the road as well. We got up earlier than normal as I was going out with the hiking club. 11 guys and 9 ladies hiking today and we filled four vehicles. We drove north up #79 about 20 kms then turned east for another 7 on the dirt road. We parked at a ranch gate then walked as the route was up a wash (dry creek bed) and washed out road. We circled back down the wash and saw quite a large number of petroglyphs along there. Some were fairly distinct but others were pretty far gone. We left at 8 am and were home well before 11 am; that’s not a usual hike for me. It’s more likely to be 11 pm! Tonight we’re going to the clubhouse for supper to try chicken fried steak. I had it once before when we were stopped at a truck stop with Jordans last January. I had purchased tickets to the Christmas meal at the clubhouse but Aileen has now had an invitation to join some of the neighbours for supper instead, so I will have to return the tickets. The Dalgleish’s from Lac Le Jeune, near Kamloops are hosting.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dancing and Sightseeing

Florence light
up parade.

A Harley Santa.

Salt River Canyon.

Randy &

Route 60 high country.

Four levels of highway Salt River Canyon.

Gila Woodpecker across the street.
He thinks he's a hummer!
On Thursday last we went to the Potato Bar which was the name for this week’s Hog Heaven up at the clubhouse. Supper consisted of a baked potato with every imaginable topping, done buffet style. There was a fairly good crowd for the meal. Friday evening after supper we went with Wendy and Randy into Florence to see the light up parade. We were amazed how many young children showed up for the festivities; there were hundreds. We’re so used to being among the youngest in here. We rushed back from the parade to go to the dance in the clubhouse which wasn’t as well attended as I expected. Less than 100, I would guess. The park isn’t half full yet, I think, with people arriving daily. I understand many of the residents don’t show up until after Christmas. The band was called 3 Wheel Drive and they played great country music. There was a definite slant towards Marty Robbins which they explained later. They have been the house band for the annual Marty Robbins festival for the past 15 years and have been playing together for something like 55 years! Wendy and I just about wrecked ourselves early on when they played a polka. We were the only ones doing a real polka though several other couples joined us on the floor. My calf muscles are still tender three days later! It was a lot of fun even though we had to forego our swim that night. The dance went an hour past RV midnight. RV midnight is 9 PM, I read somewhere the other day.

On Saturday morning Aileen and Wendy walked to one of the adjoining parks to their huge Winter craft fair. Actually they only walked home as one of the neighbours gave them a ride almost right away. They came home empty handed but enjoyed the looking. At 10:30 after they’d returned we decided to take our lunch and go to the Salt River Canyon which is north and east of here. I’d read somewhere about it awhile back and found my note on it recently, describing it as a downsized Grand Canyon but well worth the visit. It was! We gained quite a bit of elevation and found the temperature much cooler at lunch even though the sun was bright. We were nearly 6,000 feet at the highest point on the road. Route 60 is the only east – west route for quite a distance in central Arizona so they had no alternative but to engineer a road through the canyon. They did a good job too as 6% was the steepest grade. We had to retrace our steps home as any circle trip would have added many hours to the day. We made it home just before dark as it was. Route 60 passes several huge still operating open pit copper mines near Miami and Globe, AZ. Aileen was impressed with how close to town some of the operations were. As we entered Miami just before noon, there were hundreds of Harley’s marshalling for a toy run. I would have enjoyed staying just to see Santa riding in a two wheeled cart pulled by a Harley trike but we knew our time was short if we were to get to the canyon.

Another night, not sure which one now, we packed our food down to the recreation complex and used one of the gas barbeques to cook some shrimp Aileen had marinated. Yummy! Wendy made a potato salad as her contribution so we had a delicious supper. We’ll have to do that again. We’ve been missing our BBQ as we cooked several times a week on ours at home and we’ve yet to find a small one for traveling.

Sunday was cloudy and cooler with a nasty wind at times then rain overnight. Is anyone feeling sorry for us poor people? Oh well, it wasn’t enough to make me resort to long pants so as long as that’s as far as it goes we’ll suffer through. The sky cleared in the late afternoon and there was a nice sunset which I tried to do something with but suffered from a lack of suitable foreground again. The sun seems to be coming back this morning but it is cooler.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time slipping away in Florence

Saguaro grove.

Mitzy says Hi.

Route 88.

Starting down Fish Creek hill.

A typical travel lunch scene.

Saguaro forest.

Apache Lake, below Roosevelt Dam.

Roosevelt Dam.

Bridge above Roosevelt Dam.

Roosevelt Lake.
Where do the days go? On Sunday we went to the music jam here in the park and danced to several of the songs. Sunday night was Mexican Train at Wendy & Randy’s; what a game. On Monday, we set the alarm and Aileen and I left here at 7:23 for a big loop trip. We went north to Apache Junction then took Route 88 east to the Roosevelt Dam. The first hour we made good time but the next 44 miles took us over 5 hours! We did stop and explore and take lots of pictures but the road was very rough necessitating slow driving with our hard riding truck. There was lots of washboard but the worst was all the erosion gouges across the road from the recent heavy rains. One of the highlights of the trip is the section known as Fish Creek hill which is mostly single lane and clings to the side of the mountain as it descends. Those not used to such roads find it a little uncomfortable (or terrifying) but it’s really safe enough if caution is exercised. The hill down to Bella Coola is a super highway by comparison! There were also some fine stands of Saguaro Cactus which necessitated a walk uphill to capture some images. Roosevelt Dam was built in 1911 as the world’s largest masonry arch dam and was constructed of locally cut stone. It was added onto in the 1990’s and made 70 feet higher. This dam is what made it possible for Phoenix to grow into the city it has become by providing a stable water supply. After leaving the dam we had to increase our pace to get home for supper arriving back in Florence after 5:30. It was all good paved road after the dam. Suffering from all the bumps, Aileen was in bed asleep by 6:30.
Monday was a rest day for us as was Tuesday for the most part. I went into Florence in the morning looking for a few things but was unsuccessful. I did spend quite awhile prowling around the True Value Hardware store which is a step back in time. They’re modern and up to date but also are like the old fashioned stores in that they carry most things required for farming and ranching that were common years ago. They are located in an old building which has its own uniqueness. On Tuesday afternoon I drove to Casa Grande to get the truck serviced and the tires rotated. No one around here had the machine to recalibrate the tire pressure monitoring system that I’m stuck with on the truck which meant I had to find a GM dealer.
We still pack our computers over to the club house most mornings to get online but was surprised to get a good enough signal here in the trailer this morning. That was a bonus. However, I found that the signal wasn’t strong enough to upload pictures to the blog so I will have to wander over there to get this posted. We played Mexican Train again last night at W&R’s then went to the pool afterward. We’re still enjoying having our own pool and hot tub! There are four pools scattered through the park.