September 29, 2015 – Caverns of Sonora, Texas

I was excited to be out in the middle of nowhere last night and went outside to look at the stars. Duh! That full moon washed them all out.

We had dozens of deer around us again this morning.

Today was cavern tour day.  It was outstanding.  I used to think, “seen one cavern, you’ve seen ’em all”, but not anymore.  This was unlike any other we’ve ever seen. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I saw a lot of these in Arizona, but didn’t get a picture of one.  It is Ocatilla, a native of Arizona. Paul Brindle told me that is looks dead (like a bundle of sticks) until it gets enough water and leafs out. Striking, eh?

b Ocotillo

Here is a closeup of the leaves.

b02 Ocotillo Leaves Closeup

Here is our tour guide at the entrance to the cavern. There were only four of us on the noon tour. The other couple was from Sweden.

b03 Entrance to Cavern

This is a picture of what the original cavern entrance looked like.

b04 Orignial Entrance

At the beginning, it was cool, but not beautiful.  I thought about being disappointed.

b05 Beginning of Tour

Things got better, and better.

b06

b07

b08

b09

b10

b11

b12

The guide said these “straws” are hollow.

b13

We were up close and personal with the formations as much of the cavern path was very narrow.

b14

Unlike other caverns, much of the rock was nodular-y, rather than smooth.

b15

b16

This is looking up from the last formation. Smooth at the top and nodules at the bottom.

b17

Some spaces were more brown and others were pure white.

b18

b19

This was an odd, smooth section.

b20
b21

The cavern is famous for its horizontal formations, not vertical like stalagmites and stalactites.  I forgot the name.  The tour guide said they are formed by pressure on the walls. Some are smooth.  This is a real close up, probably less than a foot long.

b22 Closeup

b23

b24

The Swedish woman said it looks like cauliflower.

Another difference.  This cavern is not cool.  The temperature is 72 degrees, but with 98% humidity, it feels like 85.

This is their web site: Caverns of Sonora

 

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September 28, 2015 – El Paso to Sonoran Caverns, Texas

There was an RV Repair place right in the park, so Andy went over to ask them to look at the “Low Air Alarm”, or rather fix whatever is making it alarm regularly.  He also wanted some new wipers.  When we were ready for the road, I pulled Sao alongside the building. Andy was inside for a long while and then came out to say that the man did not have any wiper blades so we left at 0858.

I spotted an “International Memorial Wall” on the south side of the interstate, but have not been able to look it up.

We entered the Central Time zone at 1043 Mountain Time.

Andy found a Walmart (in the Next Exit book) in Fort Stockton and planned to stop for a few groceries. I spotted K-Bob’s Steakhouse on the left with a lot of pickup trucks parked out front and we decided to stop there for lunch after shopping.  It was tasty and the lunch menu was inexpensive.  Andy went to sleep soon after we were back on I-10.

East of Fort Stockton, the mesas and ridges were loaded with hundreds (and hundreds) of windmills. We also began to see a lot of oil wells.

I don’t know about the rest of Texas, but I-10 has an inordinate number of police patrolling it.  And, they are busy pulling people over left and right. I would think, under those circumstances, people would be satisfied driving at 80 miles per hour.

Another thing I see on I-10 is a lot of unofficial dirt roads heading on and off the interstate.  Some are adhoc roads crossing over the shoulder when a side road ends.  Others are paths across the interstate shoulders and median that connect to a road on either side. Many clearly lead to ranch gates and oil rigs.

We reached the Sonoran Caverns RV Park at 1712 MT.  It is about seven or ten miles off the interstate. The road could easily have gone around a large hill, but went steeply up one side and steeply down the other.

Sao is alone in one section of the RV park.  There is one other RV in another section.  And, we saw some tent campers in yet another.  This place is unbelievably quiet.

b10 Sao in Sonoran Caverns

The place is crawling with deer.  We saw dozens of them when we drove in.

b1 Mama and Baby

This could be the reason there are so many.  When I got near, about a thousand doves took off.  I didn’t get close enough to see, but suspect that is corn in the barrel.

b7 Deer Eating Feed

Here is something else I have never seen before.  Well, I have seen ant hills.  See the path through the grass?

b2 Ant Hill

These did not have a hill, just holes in the hard ground.

b3 Ant Hill Closeup

Here is a closer look at the path.

b4 Ant Path

They don’t show up very well, the the path was. literally, crawling with ants.  Like a busy highway.  I wonder how many years and ant feet it took to make a path so well trodden.

b5 Ant Path Closeup

The ant path continued off the RV park and into the tall grass on the other side of the fence.

More deer.

b8 Baby and Mama Deer

b9 Young Buck

These thistles were brilliant in the early evening sun.

b11 Thistle

They look like tiny fuzzy pineapples.

b12 Thistle Closeup

The hillside is covered with Prickly Pear Cactus.  These are the redest cactus pears I have ever seen.

b13 Prickly Pear Cactus

b14 Prickly Pears

b15 Prickly Pears 2

September 27, 2015 – Tucson, AZ to El Paso, TX – Lunar Eclipse

It was a travel day, so there is not much to tell about it.

We were thrilled to find diesel for $2.25 a gallon.

New Mexico now holds top honors for welcome center architecture.  It looks like a mission, except for the church front part. Here it is from Sao when I stepped outside.

b1 NM Welcome Center

I got closer and realized what it was.

b2 NM Welcome Center

I met Andy coming back out. I was getting excited over the visitor center.

b3 NM Welcome Center

The sides were picnic tables, rather than priest cells.

b4 NM Welcome Center

Here is a closer look. It was cool and breezy in the deep shade.

b5 NM Welcome Center

The information office is straight behind the fountain.
b6 NM Welcome Center

And, here is a closer look at the door.

b6 NM Welcenter

Las Cruces and El Paso are a huge sprawl along the Rio Grande. Ciudad Juarez is on the other side of the river. We had to weave through road construction to get to Mission RV Park, right next to I-10, elevated behind us. There are containers across the wall.

b Sao in El Paso, TX

The big event today was watching the moon. OK, I got carried away and took 177 pictures, but most of them did not turn out.  These are the best.

moon 1

moon 2

moon 3

moon 4

moon 5

moon 6

It was really hard to get it in focus when it was dark.

moon 7

moon 8

moon 9

moon 10

THE END

I wish I had a tripod.  I was leaning up against Sao to help hold the camera still.

 

September 26, 2015 – Lake Havasu City and Tucson, Arizona

After our two-week Utah national park marathon, we headed south to Lake Havasu City, on the border of Arizona and California, to visit boating friends, Paul and Sheri Brindle.

I don’t remember exactly where this was, I think on Arizona route 95, but could be wrong about the road and the state.  Anyway, it is one of the coolest highway rest stops ever.

b Rest Stop on US 95 in AZ

Paul and Sheri live on a hillside above town in an RV-friendly neighborhood. They said we were welcome to stay in their driveway for a few days.  Their driveway does not seem steep at all when you walk on it, but there is some elevation change.  Yikes!  When I leveled the motorhome, the front wheels were way off the ground.  Andy and Paul were not concerned; they just blocked up the leveler and the two front wheels.

b Sao in Lake Havasu City AZ

I was very uneasy about it, but Sao was quite stable and did not tip over during the night.  I stayed awake so I would know when it was about to happen.

Lake Havasu City is the new home of the London Bridge. Robert McCulloch (as in chainsaws) purchased land for a development in 1958.  He bought the London Bridge for $2.5 million in 1968. After the bridge was reassembled in the desert, he had a canal dug across a peninsula in Lake Havasu to create an island and water under his bridge. Lake Havasu is a segment of the Colorado River.

The area around the bridge is a little English-themed shopping district. Here are Paul and Sheri standing at the entrance gate.

b Sheri and Paul Brindle at Gate

Here are their smiling faces closer up.

b Sheri and Paul Brindle

We stopped in the visitor center to look at the small museum.  Then, Sheri sat in the air conditioning with her Kindle while Paul, Andy, and I took a walk along the channel. Here is my picture of the London Bridge.

b London Bridge in Lake Havasu City AZ

There is a citizen’s group who raises money to put navigation lights along the shores of Lake Havasu.  The lights are small-scale replicas of famous lighthouses from around the country.  This one is Currituck Beach Light, the northernmost light in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

b Currituck Beach Lighthouse Replica

The next day, Paul and Sheri took us for a long sightseeing day.  We stopped for breakfast in Topock, Arizona.  I was shocked when we got out of the pickup truck and I saw a marsh out in the desert.  It is just off the Colorado River.

b Marsh Along Colorado River Topock AZ

Our next stop (on the famous Route 66) was Oatman, an old gold mining town.  It is very touristy and fun.  Locals stage a comic gun fight in the street once a day to raise money for Shriners. The tourist onlookers are directed to stand across the road to block traffic for the show.

Sheri told me that this cart is a rolling toilet used in the mines.  We went in a few shops, but did not buy anything.

b Miner's Toilet

We walked up one side of the street and down the other.

b Andy Sidewalk Oatman AZ

This is the Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned and returned regularly.

b Oatman Hotel

Another feature of the town is the pack of wild burros that wander the street and mooch off tourists who buy burro food that is for sale in many of the stores.  This baby is lying in the street. He has a tag stuck on his head that says “Don’t feed me”.  A woman in one of the stores said that some tourists stuff carrots into the babies mouths when they are not old enough to eat them.

b Baby Burro Main Street Oatman AZ

We continued on Route 66 through the Black Mountains.  Sheri and I were marveling over how the families traveling to California in the 1930s made it through the mountains with their old, unreliable cars, piled high with all their possessions. The mountains are imposing, the road steep, and the curves tight. Paul pulled over for us to look at this mountain, or rock, called Boundary Cone.  He said it is sacred to the native Americans.

b Dinata Andy Sheri Sacred Mountain

I also got a good look at Cholla Cactus.

b Cholla Cactus

Our next stop was Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman. It was full with the lunch crowd, a mix of locals and Route 66 travelers.

b Mr D'z Route 66 Diner

b Mr D'z Interior

I got a big kick out of the menus. The big, black plastic circle backing is the size of an LP record.

b Mr D'z Menu

Here is Paul’s hamburger, now history.

b Paul's Hamburger

We spent two days in Lake Havasu.  Literally.    The temperature was 105 degrees both days.  The lake water is delightfully cool.  Paul, Sheri, and I floated with inflatable noodles, called Doodles.  Andy swam.  We stayed in the lake for hours. Those were two very relaxing days.

Another shocker, on the way to the lake, in the desert, is a West Marine store.  It should not have surprised me; there is a big lake here.  But, the West Marine was sitting in the desert.

We left Paul and Sheri’s this morning at 0858 and drove 319 miles to the Voyager RV Resort in Tucson. Just east/south of Lake Havasu City, around Parker, the mountains are dark, craggy, rough, foreboding, and creepy in stark contrast to the ribbon of sparkling blue Colorado River water.

This is the biggest RV park we have ever seen with 1,576 spaces.  Many of them have “park models”, which I translate into “permanent”.  It is a very nice park and exceptionally well maintained.  The winter season has not started yet and Sao is sitting out in a great big, nearly empty lot.

b Sao in Tuscon AZ

Here is our view forward.
b View Forward in Tuscon

September 20, 2015 – Kolob Canyons and Grafton, Utah

Son Christopher packed up and headed back to California this morning.  Mama’s eyes got a bit misty during that last hug and watching him drive away. We have loved having him with us this week.

We headed up I-15 to the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. This was our first glimpse of the mega-bohemoth rocks as we rounded a curve. It was so shocking that I stopped in the road to take a picture of that moment.

b1 First Look at Rocks in Kolob

I pulled into a parking lot to take a picture of the first one.

b2 Bohemoth Rock

I noticed the slabs at the base and zoomed in on those.

b3 Fins of Rock at Base

This is the view of a valley, or canyon, between two of the mountain-sized rocks. I have since cleaned the smear off my camera lens.

b4 Canyon Between Two Rocks

There is a succession of them.

b5 Two Rocks

I noted that it looked like a scene from a movie set in pre-history. Andy responded, “A prehistoric movie?”

b6 Kolob Canyons

The end of the road was only five miles in.  That surprised me as the Kolob Terrace road is so much longer. We took the overlook trail, which was a bit rougher than Andy’s sense of balance likes.  He did very well anyway. This was an easy section, a walkway like I’ve never seen before. It was a series of raised beds made from logs and dirt.  That way, water could run between them and on down the mountain.

b7 Hiking Trail

We got a good view of a little valley high up on the mountain. I thought that was a little world all to its own.

b9 Valley on the Mountain

I’ll call this last one the giant giant rock of a mountain. I zoomed in on it and kept seeing a face through the camera, but it is not there with the naked eye.

b17 Giant Giant Rock

We stopped in Subway for a sandwich on our way back south. Then we went to Grafton, Utah. Eddie recommended it yesterday. I suppose he investigated it because his name is Grafton. It is really close to the RV park, but we had to cross the river on an old historic bridge in Rockville and double back on the other side.  This is along the dirt and gravel road to get there.

b10 Road to Grafton

Grafton was settled by Mormons in 1859 in response to Brigham Young’s hope to establish farms to produce cotton. With regular flooding, it turned out not to be a good place to even grow enough food for a settlement.  But, there were 168 people living there according to the 1864 census.  The last residents left in 1945. Here is the town in 1929.

b12 Grafton in 1929

This is the church, school house, and community center, built in 1886.
b11 Grafton Schoolhouse and Church

This is the Alonzo H. Russell house. The exterior has been restored.

b15 Alonzo Russell Home

Alonzo H. Russell built this house for his wife Louisa Marie between 1873 and 1879. There must be a good story there.  Was she the troublesome wife?  How many wives stayed in the fine house across the road?

b13 Louisa Russell Home

This is looking out the front door of Louisa Marie’s house.  It is the only building that is open for inspection.

b14 Louisa Russell Home Interior

This is the John and Ellen Wood home, built in 1877.
b16 John Wood Home

Singer-songwriter Steve Warner performed in the social hall this evening.  I loved his songs better than his voice. It was a good show, but we did not buy any CDs.

September 19, 2015 – Zion National Park

Today, we took the park shuttle bus into the park, the canyon that we have not seen before. We went to the last bus stop and walked the River Trail to the end.

 

b1 Rocks

The wall along the river trail has hanging gardens.  Some spots are quite lush.

b2 Hanging Garden

Andy and I got a kick out of this nose shaped rock formation.  Water was dripping out all around the bottom.  Andy said he could relate to that.

b3 Runny Nose Rock

We did not elect to walk up the river past the trail’s end.  It was too cold.

b4 End of Sidewalk in Narrows

The crowds were arriving as we headed back out.

b5 Walkway to Narrows

b9 Zion Canyon

Christopher opened a bag of wasabi peas and this squirrel ran right up to him for some.  Christopher did not feed the wildlife though. We saw a number of squirrels along the trail (all fat). At one point the trail was blocked with people taking pictures of one.  Andy noted, “Squirrel jam!”

b6 Fat Squirrel

The canyon is narrow enough that you see mountain tops out of the top of the bus.

b7 Peak Through Bus Roof

b8 Cliff

Ranger House

b10

This wind sculpture is outside the Thai restaurant were we met Bonnie and Ed Grafton for lunch. Two wheels of leaves spin in the wind and I was mesmerized.

b11 Wind Toy

Bonnie is a bird expert at the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab. Lunch was fabulous and a good time with friends.

b12 Bonnie, Ed Grafton, Andy

Another ranger house.

b13 Ranger House

We drove back up the mountain and through the tunnel in the afternoon.  This is the only tunnel I have ever seen with windows.  They were put there to get fresh air in the mile-long tunnel. There are no lights in the tunnel either.

b14 Window in Tunnel

b15 Rock Dollop

b16 Above Tunnel

This is a larger, but shorter tunnel.  Still no lights.

b17 Small Tunnel

The scenery above the tunnel is strange and beautiful.

b18 Pink Slope

b19 Christopher on Rocks

b20 Oozing Rock

This is called the Checkerboard Mesa, but my picture does not show it off to its best.

b21 Checkerboard Mesa

b22 Rocks

b23 Big Horn Sheep

Out hiking destination was that hoodoo in the center of the picture. It is farther than it looks.

b24 Hoo Doos on Slope

b25 Crossing Wash

b26 Walking up Rock Slope

b27 Mud Dollop

b28 Almost to Hoo Doo

b28 Christopher and Hoo Doo

b29 Christopher on Hoo Doo

b30 Swirls of Pink

b31 Rpcl

This tree was lit up by the afternoon sun as we headed back down into the canyon.

b32 Tree on Curve

September 18, 2015 – Bryce Canyon

It is a 98-mile trip and very slow traffic driving through Zion, but it was worth the drive. Again, there is not much I can add to the pictures. I can’t even remember where I took them, much less, in what order.

b Balanced Rock

b Bryce Canyon

b Chris in Stump

b HooDoos 1

b HooDoos2

b Large Arch

b Orange Rock

b Overlook

b Red Rock 2

b Red Rock 3

b Red Rock

b Rocks 1

b Rocks 2

b Rocks 3

b Rocks 4

b Rocks 5

b Rocks 6

b Rocks 7

b Rocks with View
b Window Arch

Christopher pulled off the road in Orderville so he could pose with the car hop.

b Chris and Car Hop

It was early evening when we drove back through Zion to get back home and the Big Horned Sheep were out in droves.  We saw dozens of them along the roadside. My last camera battery died at that point, so these are Christopher’s pictures.


b Big Horn Sheep Herd

b Big Horn Sheep Pair

b Big Horn Sheep