Travel Day to Benson Arizona

Sunday January 21st 2018

It was in the mid fifties inside the RV this morning. I turned up the heat and went back to bed. Consequently I got a late start to the day. I pulled out of my site at 10:30 for the drive to Benson AZ about 170 miles away.

It was an uneventful drive through the Sonoran Desert lands. I enjoy seeing all of the saguaro cactus along the way. Growing up with movies and TV westerns this is my idea of the desert southwest. It is still dusty and dirty but the scenery makes up for that. All through the day I saw cloud banks in the eastern sky ahead of my direction of travel, but I never caught up with them. As I moved into the higher terrain east of Tuscon the temperature dropped into the forties and the wind picked up. It hadn’t been warm or calm on the earlier part of the trip, but I’m glad I didn’t have to travel much further. It was very windy and gusty when I stopped for the day just after 1PM.

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Site 35 at the Benson AZ KOA.

I wasn’t well prepared for today’s travel. I usually have written down the exit number or route number for any of my stops or destinations. Today, I was counting on the park having a highway sign to indicate which exit in town to take. As you may have guessed, there wasn’t one. The Arizona Highway Department let me down. I got off Interstate 10 at the last exit in town and consulted the oracle of Google. I had to back track one exit. The RV park is in the middle of nowhere, but within sight of the Interstate. I’m sure I’ll here the traffic tonight.

I got setup in time to watch the last three quarters of the Patriots Jaguars game. When I first turned the game on it didn’t look to good for the Patriots. As I watched the game the Patriot’s superiority gradually emerged. If the Jaguars had more playoff experience, it may not have turned out as well for the Pats. Look out Minneapolis, the Patriots are on their way.

It never got above fifty this afternoon. The wind has died down and the sky is clear. The overnight low is forecast in the twenties. I’ve disconnected the water hose so it won’t freeze. I’ll run the furnace low overnight so the basement pipes don’t freeze. There are two reasons for the cold. First a cold front just went through the area and second I’m at 3500 feet above sea level. It’s forecast to get back to daytime highs in the mid sixties and nightly lows in the high thirties during the week I’m here.

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Tonight’s Sunset in the desert.

Travel Day to Gila Bend AZ

Saturday January 20th 2018

I pulled out of the River Island State Park this morning around ten. It was a cool partly cloudy day with lots of wind. Somehow I seem to be able to find the windy day to travel in my high profile vehicle. It wasn’t the worst wind I’ve encountered but it was stronger than the last few days. It was also almost 20 degrees colder for a high temperature.

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Site 118 at the Gila Bend KOA. Notice the cloud cover with a little bit of blue sky getting through. As the afternoon continued the clouds thickened.

I didn’t have any problems on my hundred and seventy mile drive. Around 1PM I arrived at the KOA in Gila Bend Arizona. I stayed at this park last April on my trip north. My route today was chosen to avoid Quartzsite AZ. The annual RV show and self proclaimed “The Largest Gathering of RVers in the World” opened today. I’ve seen reports that there may be a record number of RVs dry camping on the BLM land surrounding the little town. More than 1,000,000 people are expected to attend the show. While I’m curious about the event, I’m not ready to hang out in the desert with all those people.

Once I got away from the Colorado river the terrain returned to flat desert separated by ridges of mountains. The roads are generally very straight with undulations up and down as you pass through various washes. The more improved the road the more the undulations have been filled in. On today’s drive I was on a sixty mile stretch of Arizona highway that hasn’t been improved to a level road. I hate roller coasters.

The weather has continued to deteriorate since I arrived at my evening camp. Northern Arizona is getting snow and the possibility of rain exists for the Phoenix area tonight. The overnight temperature is forecast to be in the mid to upper thirties. Tomorrow may be OK here, but the storm may still be lingering in the areas to the east I’ll be traveling into. Either way I’m committed to traveling to Benson AZ.

The Birds of River Island State Park

Friday January 19th 2018

It was another beautiful day in Arizona. As the sun was rising the temperature was in the mid forties. By the time the sun was setting the temperature had reached the mid to upper seventies. From what I can tell using the internet the weather is going downhill from here. Tomorrow will be in the sixties with rain threatening. Without local television stations to catch up on the weather forecast it’s hard to know your getting the latest information.

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Some kind of raptor flying above the mountains.

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Another mystery waterfowl

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Heron?

I spent another day enjoying this park and the Colorado River. The scenery is very dramatic and the bird life is intriguing. I have to get better figure out what varieties of birds I’m watching. Today I watched a pair of big birds circling and floating on the air currents. They were far enough away that I couldn’t tell what kind of raptor they were. My guess is some kind of vulture.

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Cactus garden with some very interesting plants.

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This park also has a nice cactus garden between the park and the main road. I took a walk through the garden this afternoon. You can tell it is well cared for. Many of the cactus plants look like living sculptures and they aren’t over crowded.

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One last picture of the cove in the Colorado river as it flows by the River Island State Park in Arizona.

Tomorrow I move to the east some more. I’m traveling about a 170 miles to Gila Bend southwest of Phoenix for a night. That’s about the halfway point in my journey to Benson AZ. I’ll stay in Benson for a week to tour Tombstone AZ and the Chiricahua National Monument assuming the National Monument isn’t closed by a government shutdown. From there I’ll move on to Las Cruces New Mexico for a few days.

 

Day at River Island State Park

Thursday January 18th 2018

It was a sunny warm day in the low seventies after a cool overnight in the forties. It’s amazing how much difference one hundred seventy five miles south from Las Vegas and fifteen hundred feet lower in elevation makes.

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Mountains surrounding the campground

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East side mountain at sunset.

There are many other nice differences about this location over Las Vegas. The one that struck me first was how quiet it was last night. In Las Vegas there was noise all day and night. Everything from basic traffic noise to sirens of every type. A couple of evenings we even had low flying police helicopters working a grid search pattern over the area. Most of the noise was to be expected in a city RV resort, but the police helicopters were a bit disconcerting. It was so nice to experience the quiet here last night.

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California side of the river

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Flock of birds that floats down the river then flies back upstream to float down again.

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Who’s going to win the race the birds or the boat?

During the day it was a little noisier. The traffic on the nearby road picked up and some of the trucks were loud enough to draw my attention. An occasional fast moving boat on the Colorado river reminded me that the river was there. So there was occasional noise on south and north sides. The east and west sides were mountain cliffs. That left the sky as an additional source of potential noise. The military and a few private pilots provided the noise from that direction. During the morning three attack helicopters made a training run up the Colorado river at a low altitude. Later in the morning a couple of fighter aircraft flew by. Thankfully they were at a higher altitude than the choppers. The private planes flew over at random times during the day. These were all interesting noises. The Las Vegas ones were just annoying and somewhat frightening.

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Couples going their separate ways

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Quick out of focus picture of one of the attack helicopters that flew up the river valley at low altitude.

I spent the day enjoying the park and watching the activity on the river. There were quite a few kayaks and a few power boats on the river. They were at opposite ends of the speed spectrum. All of the power boats were traveling at or near full throttle judging by the noise level, the wake and the speed. Luckily for the kayaks they weren’t around at the same time as the power boats.

The bird population on the river was also in full display. I’m not great at bird identification, but I learned what an American Coot looks like while in Las Vegas. Now I’m seeing them here. There were also several other varieties of water birds. I haven’t gotten a good picture or enough internet access to attempt an identification. Perhaps tomorrow.

On the Road Again

Wednesday January 17th 2018

I wqs up early in the morning to get ready for travel. Working steadily I pulled out of the site around ten this morning and left the RV park around ten twenty. To checkout I had to wait in the line of people picking up their mail and one new check-in. A little over three hours elapsed time later I pulled into the River Islands State Park on the Parker Strip in Arizona. I’m now officially in the Mountain time zone so it was four hours on the clock. However, my cell phone still thinks I in the Pacific Time Zone. It is making contact with a tower across the river in California when it can get signal.

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Site 21 at the River Island State Park.

This campground is located in a whole in the rocks on the side of the Colorado River a little ways downstream from the Parker Dam. It’s a beautiful place, but communications signals don’t seem to get in very well. I have no local TV reception just satellite. I have one bar of cell phone service, but no data service unless I walk down to the rivers edge. The park has a WiFi connection, but it isn’t the fastest or most stable. I remember having issues last spring when I stopped here. I just didn’t remember the details.

Preparing to travel and the actual travel was tense after three months in one place. I was extra careful double checking many things as I got ready to travel. During the actual travel I was hyper sensitive to every noise and vibration. Nothing was wrong that smother roads wouldn’t solve. Between rough pavement, uneven bridge joints and the roller coaster contour of the road through the desert it was not a smooth ride.

It is warmer here than Las Vegas. This park is about fifteen hundred feet lower than Las Vegas and the temperature is more than ten degrees warmer than Las Vegas. It was in the low seventies when I arrived this afternoon. The weather in Las Vegas was forecast to deteriorate over the next few days. I assume it will here too. I move on toward Phoenix on Saturday.

Last Full Day in Las Vegas

Tuesday January 16th 2018

Today was my last full day in Las Vegas. The weather was cloudy and cool most of the day, but managed to clear off before sunset. Tomorrow is forecast to be a windy day. Just what I need for a travel day.

I spent most of the day getting ready to leave town tomorrow. My food supply is topped off after a final run to the grocery store. I’ll be near big grocery stores every few days, but starting with a full larder will make things easier. I also bought and had installed a new battery for the Honda CR-V. When I had the oil change on Friday, they tested the battery. It showed the old one to be on its last legs. I considered waiting until I was in an area with a lower sales tax before buying a new one, but decided the peace of mind was worth the couple of dollars. (After writing that last sentence, I decided to verify that my assumption about a high sales tax rate was correct. It turns out the rate is 8.25 percent. I won’t be passing through a metropolitan area with a lower sales tax rate until I get to Florida. The area makes its revenue on tourist related taxes like lodging and entertainment.)

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This zebra is really a Chinese lantern.

A slightly lower priority task for the day was stopping at the Orleans casino to convert all the slot points I’ve earned over the last three months into slot play. I only had about thirty dollars worth of play, but I didn’t want to chance loosing it before I got back to town. It was a good run, I walked away with sixty real dollars. I think it is only the second time in three months that I did walk away with a profit.

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My last sunset at the Las Vegas RV Resort.

I am only traveling about one hundred and seventy five miles tomorrow. I’m going to River Island State Park on the Colorado River in Arizona just below the Parker Dam. I stopped there last April on my way north. I could only get three nights, so I’ll be moving on again on Saturday. I may not be publishing a blog entry tomorrow night. When I was there in April, I didn’t have a great 4g cellular data signal. If that happens I’ll find a place to publish from on Thursday.

 

One Last Visit to the Wetlands Park

Monday January 15th 2018

I finally got a chance to visit the Wetlands Park and say good-bye to all my wildlife friends. Last weeks heavy rain resulted in many changes to the park. There was a little more water in the ponds and creeks, but the biggest change was the evidence of last weeks high water. Most of the inch and a half of water that fell in the valley flows into Lake Mead via the Las Vegas Wash which provides the water for the Wetlands Park. Dried mud from high water and run off covers many of the walkways. Trash from the high volumes of fast moving water lines the sides of the Las Vegas Wash area up to fifteen or twenty feet above the current water level. Park personnel are slowly working on cleaning up the debris.

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Mr. Mallard swimming circles around the Mrs.

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American Coot 

I didn’t see as many birds today. The American Coots and Mallard Ducks were still there, but many may have been back in the reeds and grass. I saw one bird species that I hadn’t seen at the park before; a Great White Egret. They aren’t very common in Nevada, but I’ve seen enough of them in Florida to be confident in my identification.

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View of the Sunrise Mountains to the east.

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Great Egret coming in for a landing.

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Coot making a speed swim.

On the preparation for travel front, I got a couple of more items checked off my to do list. I finally got a much needed hair cut. It was one of my list when I arrived in town, but since it isn’t one of my favorite activities it got put off. Tomorrow would have been the last possible day, so I didn’t procrastinate as long as I could have. I actually look human again.

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Three Coots along the boardwalk.

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A turtle and a Coot share the rock while another turtle sticks its head up out in front.

Back at the RV park I got a few more things put away. I’ll put the rest away tomorrow so Wednesday morning is as simple as possible. I’m anxious to get underway.

Watching Football instead of Exercise

Sunday January 14th 2018

Playoff football and the Pacific Time Zone add up to a royal short circuit to my daily plans. The pre-game show starts at 9AM in this time zone. I had planned to spend the morning at the Wetlands Park to make up for yesterday’s failed attempt at visiting the park. It was not to be. The football game on the TV drew me in to its evil grasp.

I really was anxious to know which team would play the Patriots next week. The victory by the Jaguars over the Steelers should favor the Patriots. All of the Steelers losses in recent years, including last month, would have brought a very motivated team to Foxborough. The Jaguars defense may make a game of it with the Patriots, but overall I give the Pats a better chance of reaching the big games against the Jags.

The second game of the day between the Saints and the Vikings wasn’t as high on my must watch list. The first half was all Vikings so I went about my day with the TV on. The second half and final four seconds were much more entertaining. The Vikings victory with no time left on the clock will probably be replayed for years to come. Next weeks games should be interesting, but I probably won’t see all of them. I’ll be on the move next Sunday from Gila Bend AZ to Benson AZ.

While catching bits and pieces of the second game I grilled up some chicken thighs on the grill and continued with my preparation for travel tasks. Half of the chicken thighs were good for today’s meal and the rest will go into a meal later in the week. Cleaning up the grill after cooking was a bit of a challenge. I’d marinated the chicken in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing and it stuck to the grill well.

On the travel prep side of things, I got the new windshield wiper blades installed. I bought them soon after I got to Las Vegas, but waited to install them until now. There is no need for them to be exposed to more UV than necessary. The old ones were in rough shape after only two years of little use. Other prep tasks were more mainstream. I put more things away, rearranged more things and tossed out a couple of things. One can only hope I can find stuff when I need it.

 

Cleaning Day

Saturday January 13th 2018

Today wasn’t a very exciting day. I wanted to take advantage of the great weather to get one more walk in at the Wetlands Park during my stay in Las Vegas. Right after breakfast I drove to the park only to find it jammed with cars for some special event. I didn’t see many people just cars. Whatever the event was I didn’t want to participate and the parking lot was full. Maybe tomorrow?

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A view of the big hunk of rock east of the RV park that is part of Sunrise mountains at sunset. The western face catches the setting sun nicely.

I stopped at Walmart on my way home. The goal was to pick up some cleaning supplies. The result was a whole lot more than I intended to buy. I bought more food for my travels. If I don’t get back to the store before I leave, I’ll survive until I get to my first week long stop in Benson Arizona. In my head I need enough food to make it across the country. In reality I’ll be near good stores most of the time.

Back at home I got to work with the cleaning supplies. The floors and woodwork in the RV got a good cleaning. Both surfaces had developed a good layer of dust in this windy desert environment. The motorhome is small enough that I keep up with the cleaning much better than I did in my former fixed residence. Still, I could do better. I want to wash or deep clean the throw rug in front of my kitchen counter. It caught the remnants of a few spills. If I find a heavy duty washing machine at one of my stops, I’ll give it a try. Otherwise, I may just replace it when I get to Florida.

The football playoff coverage started around noon in this time zone. My attention was diverted from my cleaning tasks to watching football. The first game between the Eagles and the Falcons was competitive, but I didn’t think either team was that good. The second game between the Patriots and Titans wasn’t much of a contest once the Patriots got into the game. They started slow but were dominant by the second quarter. So both number one seeds are still in the contest. Tomorrow’s games to determine their competition in the next round should be good games.

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Between the games and at half time, I got a few more things rearranged in my basement storage bins. To make room to move things around I’ve junked a few things that I haven’t used during my travel and could easily be replaced if necessary. The space and weight savings is more important. I’m considering leaving one of my outside chairs behind when I hit the road. It has a broken plastic hinge and stop that needs special handling when I open or close the chair. It would leave me with only three outside chairs. I always setup two chairs when I stop for more than a few days. The theory is to be inviting to my fellow campers, but it doesn’t happen that often. I’ve never had to get all four chairs out and I usually have a picnic table that can be used for seating.

 

Year of the Dog at the Bellagio Conservatory

Friday January 12th 2018

The Las Vegas valley is back in a good weather rut. It was another sunny day with the high temperature in the low sixties. I took it slow this morning catching up on my internet reading and watching TV. In the afternoon it was back to preparing for next weeks travel.

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Huge flower covered dog celebrates the Year of the Dog at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino Conservatory in Las Vegas. The tail of this magnificent representation of a dog is wagging.

Today’s task was to get the oil changed in the Honda CR-V. I typically use a Valvoline Instant Oil change place for the car’s lube job. It is convenient since their computers have all of my service records. If one isn’t available, I use a Jiffy Lube. In this case there were three Valvoline Instant Oil change places in the valley. Unfortunately, they were all on the northwest side of the valley. It took over a half hour to get there for service that took less than twenty minutes including the wait time. Getting home took even longer because I took the surface roads rather than the highway.

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Since I had to cross the Las Vegas strip to get home, I decided to stop and check out the Bellagio Conservatory’s Chinese New Year display. The complication to this decision was the Consumer Electronics Convention. CES is the largest annual convention that calls Las Vegas home. I got caught in its final day traffic near the Convention Center and near the Sands Exhibition hall. It was a dangerous mix of cars and pedestrians. I was in stop and go traffic for about forty five minutes before I got a parking space in the Miracle Mile Shops parking garage.

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The Bellagio display was beautiful. In celebration of the Year of the Dog there were flower statues of Chinese people playing with dogs in the gardens. The focal point of the display was a huge black, white and gray dog. I’d guess it was over thirty feet tall. This is one of the better conservatory displays I’ve seen.

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This was probably my last visit to the strip on this stay in Vegas. There is a possibility that I might take the Sam’s Town shuttle in over the weekend. My concern is that the crowds will be high with the Monday holiday. People lining up to check in this evening. I imagine with all the convention people still here that room availability is low and rates are high for tonight.