August 23, 2018 – Pie Town to Tucumcari, New Mexico

Happy Birthday, Susan!!!

It rained a quarter inch on the 21st.  Susan said that was when the road became too slippery to drive until some sun dried it out. Then, on the 22nd, it rained another half an inch.  The weather forecast was for rain every day until next Monday. We had resigned ourselves to being stuck in the wilderness for days.  Happily, I might add.  We were having so much fun visiting with Roy and Susan.  They seemed happy enough to have us hang around for longer than expected too. But, Andy is like a horse headed for the barn.  He wants to get home as soon as possible.

This morning, in spite of the forecast, the sun shone brightly and Roy invited me to ride the gator with him to the mailbox and check out the road conditions. The rain usually starts in the afternoon.  We headed out the long, long driveway which is in great shape because Roy keeps in graded and graveled. The subdivision road was not as good but seemed good enough to drive Scamp out.  There were just a few places that were muddy. The county road was also in good shape.  We agreed that I could drive out with no problems. Andy was ready to roll when we got back and reported our findings. So, we hurriedly packed our bags and put our stuff into the RV.

We did take a few moments for goodbyes, hugs, and pictures. Susan wanted to pose with us by Scamp.

Then I took a picture of Roy and Susan with the scenery in the background.

It was getting cloudier. Roy and Susan followed us to the county road to make sure we got out of the neighborhood alright.  If we had not, Roy could have pulled us out of a ditch with one of his tractors. The county road did have numerous muddy spots, one of them had deep muddy ruts across the road.  I was able to blast through the mud without incident. It took us forty-five minutes to get to the paved road.

There were some cattle in the road that gave me pause.  Several moved out of the road to our right.  These two stayed on the left shoulder to watch us pass. We did get a few sprinkles on the windshield along the way. Then we could see the sky darkening behind us as we headed east.

We drove back up to I-40 the way we had come so I got a chance to take pictures of some of the rock formations I missed on the way south. There are massive bluffs, but these giant boulders simply jut straight out of level ground.

This was a Large Landscape day.  Every land feature was large. Tall mountains. Massive mesas. Grazing land to the horizon.  Big sky. Grand vistas for what seemed to be hundreds of miles. I felt tiny in the middle of it all. Every time we crested a hill there was a new panorama.

We stopped in Albuquerque to eat lunch and call Susan to let her know we had made it to the pavement. We ate burritos.  The mountains east of Albuquerque were covered more densely with trees.  Then we could see forest to the horizon. I sang America the Beautiful in my mind.

We stopped for the night in an RV park in Tucumcari, New Mexico.


August 22, 2018 – Happy 82nd Birthday to Andy

Today was Andy’s REAL birthday.  That means he got candles and a song with his cake. Since we were going to be visiting friends for the big day, I bought a box cake mix to minimize the mess I would make in Susan’s kitchen.  Andy chose chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Then, just to add a bit more chocolate, we sprinkled the top of the cake with chocolate chips. Susan and I both worked on it.  We are having so much fun being together.

Roy and Andy smiled for the camera just before the cake was set on the table.

He appears to have enjoyed the song.

It took two puffs to blow out the two candles.


August 21, 2018 – Pie Town, New Mexico

We left Paul and Sheri and Lake Havasu City on the 20th.  There was still a good bit of desert to be covered.  We drove up to Interstate 40 and headed east. Something geographic and atmospheric changed when we crossed into New Mexico.  Maybe it was the elevation, but we began to see green ground cover and scattered trees.  The trees got bigger as we traveled east. It was a different kind of beautiful.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Gallup and ate a late dinner, then we spent the night in their parking lot.  It was clearly out of the heat.  The windows were open and we were quite comfortable all night.  The temperature was in the high sixties Fahrenheit when we got up in the morning!

I had called Susan and told her our location.  She instructed us to drive East on  I-40 and then south on 117. When got to the Ventana pull-off, we should stop and call her. That would be the last reliable cell phone coverage. Then, she would drive out to meet us and lead us to their house.

We turned onto 117 and discovered that we were in the El Malpais National Monument. The scenery was striking. Big Rocks.  That red dot on the highway is a dump truck.

Even though there was a large plain on the right, the highway hugged the cliffs.

Then I realized that the right side of the highway was a massive field of hardened lava.

We stopped at the Ventana pull-off and discovered that we did not have a phone signal.  Not even a row of empty bars.  Nothing. Should we turn back toward the interstate until we got a signal?

I remembered Susan saying that there were two cafes in Pie Town and someone would let me use a phone to call her to meet us. We decided to drive on.

First, we took a look at La Ventana (The Window). I parked Scamp while Andy waited by the walkway.

The window is one of the largest arches in New Mexico. It is massive, but we did not walk the rough trail up to it.

We continued on through a large prairie with cattle grazing.  Absolutely stunning.

We turned left on Pie Town Road. That’s the reflection of my coffee cup on the left edge.

Pie Town Road is a good road.  It is wide and generally smooth. Yet, there are sections of washboard.  We buzzed over dozens of cattle guards. It is not a flat road.  There were many hills and bumps.  But the most striking thing about Pie Town Road is that we thought it would never end. When we had gone forever, we topped a hill and saw Pie Town Road disappear in the distance. We decided that we had never been so far out into the Middle of Nowhere, not even on our Alaska trip.

Eventually, we got to Pie Town.  The Pie Town Cafe was closedacreand there was a lot of cars in front of the Gatherin’ Place.

This is what we saw when we walked in the door. Two ladies were working with pie crust.  The third, on the right out of the picture, was filling empty pie shells. Indeed, the one on the left lent me her cell phone.

Susan was very surprised we were in Pie Town.  She was planning to meet us where we had turned onto Pie Town Road.  I explained the lack of a cell phone signal.  Since it would take them half an hour to come to meet us, we ate some pie! So many choices. We shared a peach pie and then bought two more (coconut and chocolate-cherry) to take to Roy and Susan.

Andy rode with Roy and Susan rode in Scamp with me.  We went halfway back down Pie Town Road to the entrance to their “neighborhood”.  Note that we had not seen a single house the whole length of it. There was a locked gate across the road.  It has started to rain and the dirt road had turned to mud.  It was slick mud.  I could see Roy skidding a bit in front of us.  Scamp did some slipping and sliding in the same spots. Whew! I made it to the house without running into a ditch!

This is the view from the back deck.  Of course, the camera does not capture it. That blue streak behind the distant trees is a mountain range.  Roy said thay are 50 to 70 miles away. What you can’t see in the photo is how the land slopes down to a large, wide valley before the mountains.  It is breathtaking.  And, yes, this is the view out her kitchen window.

After chatting for hours and eating dinner, Roy asked if we would like a tour of the place.  We rode in their car because “the place” is 175 acres! I could not fathom how many trees that meant. This one is just outside the house.

Here is a closer look at the lovely trunks.

Our first stop was the shed. To the left.

and to the right. The man has tools and stuff.

I knew it and still marvel.  Roy and Susan lived in this shed the first (and maybe the second) year they were here.  It is well insulated and has a large wood-burning stove. They had a bed, two recliners and a television set near that stove. This is the “dry” kitchen.  Another counter is to the right of Roy and Andy.  The wooden building is the “wet” room.

All the running water is insulated again inside. Here are the kitchen sink and laundry.

On the opposite wall are the bathtub, toilet, and shower stall.

This was their home while the land was prepared and the house built.  At first, they were told it would take a couple years to get a house built in this remote area.  So, they decided to buy a prefabricated house and have it delivered.  (I don’t know how they got the sections in these roads.) I suppose they didn’t want another winter in the shed.

Our next stop was the new airplane hangar. I love this picture of Roy beginning to open the door.

It has the same speckled floor paint as our garage at home. The runway is in the distance behind that dirt and not really visible in this photo.

The airplane is in Albuquerque (I think) or somewhere else distant. Roy is learning to fly it before bringing it home.

We drove on farther along the road and around another side of their property.  One-hundred-seventy-five acres are a big yard. We turned around and headed back to the house as the sun was getting low in the sky. It was shining on the distant Sawtooth Mountains.  Roy stopped several times for me to get out and take pictures. I couldn’t decide which to use, so here are most of them.

A little bit of zoom helps.

I had asked how, with 175 acres, did they ever choose where to put the house. Answer: near the pile of rocks. It is huge and I have not captured it all here. They are at the side of the garage.

Roy had several big toys.

Susan and I met each other at work maybe twenty years ago.  We did not work together or see each other much but hit it off right away.  We have stayed in touch all these years via email, FaceBook and even here paper letters. Now we are enjoying each other’s company even more on this way-past-due visit.

August 19, 2018 – Lake Havasu City, AZ

We left Twentynine Palms on the 18th and headed out into the Mojave Desert. The Arizona mountains are dark brown, rocky, and formidable.  Vast plains of low scrub separate them. There is nothing green in sight.  After traveling for miles and miles, we would come through a pass to yet another vast plain of desert. I seemed it would never end.

Eventually, we crossed the Colorado River at Parker, AZ and into Arizona.  Then we were actually in the dark brown jagged mountains.  The river is lined with homes, resorts, and casinos. I snatched this image from the internet to give you an idea.

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We arrived at boating-friends Paul and Sheri’s house late in the afternoon. It was hot in Lake Havasu and getting hotter. Paul and Sheri said they were staying in the house to avoid the heat.

The next morning we were all acting like the teenagers, each on our own device engrossed in “whatever”.  We did not send each other messages though.

The plan for the day was to take the ferry across the river to the casino in California. Here, we were waiting for the casino ferry to moor. It was 116 degrees Fahrenheit out there!

I interior cabin was air conditioned and Paul and Sheri opted to sit inside.  Andy and I sat up top in the open (but under a hard top and in the shade). I figured we would be cool enough in the breeze generated by the boat’s movement. We were.

Not being gambling people, we went to the restaurant for lunch. This was our view.

The lake is quite wide there, but I used the zoom lens to capture the ferry returning from Lake Havasu City.  We could not see it with the naked eye.

I loved this waterfall wall at the entrance to the restaurant and gift shop.

We have known Paul and Sheri for about twenty years now.  We met them at a Trawler Fest in Solomons, Maryland and they subsequently bought a boat similar to ours. We sat inside the air conditioning with them for the return trip.

Paul told me that these are the “needles” giving the name to the city of Needles, California upstream.

This is a view of Lake Havasu City, Arizona from the middle of the lake. It seems like an insane idea to dismantle the London Bridge and set it up in the desert of Arizona.  Yet, an entire city (full of part-timers and retirees) has sprung up by it.

Lighthouses are “the thing” in Lake Havasu City.  Different areas have replicas of the lighthouses from different regions of the United States. This one sits at the entrance to the harbor.

I took this photo of the real London Bridge as I disembarked from the ferry.

I looked it up and think this tree is a Cercidium ‘Desert Museum’ Low Branch.  But, I also think Paul gave me another name for it so I might be wrong.  They look so thin, yet the little bit of shade they create makes a big difference in the feel of the sun on the skin.

One-hundred-sixteen degrees does not seem so bad when you go from house to car to ticket office to ferry to restaurant to ferry to car to house.

August 17, 2018 – Joshua Tree National Park

The RV Park is very pretty in the daylight.

We were expecting hot weather so we got an early start.  Of course, we stopped in the visitor center to get a map and advice on where to look.  The ranger said they did not advise hiking due to the heat.  We entered the park at the Oasis entrance and made many stops to look and take pictures. I won’t comment on them all or I would be up all night.

Aside from the Joshua Trees, the park is famous for its rock formations.

Note Andy standing in front of rocks.

Note the rock wedged in the gap.

Split Rock

See the little domes on top of these huge boulders

This is a Joshua Tree forest.  They grow between 3,000 and 5,000 feet altitude.

It is a member of the Lily family!

Note Andy in front of the tree for scale.

Have a closeup look at the bark.

And up at the branches.

We drove up to Keys View for a look at the Coachella Valley and the San Bernadino Mountains obscured by the haze.

This little guy was not shy.

Andy sat on a park bench and the chipmunk ran underneath to the shade he created.  It stretched out with its belly on the sidewalk.

We could hear thunder over the mountain.

A large tour bus pulled into the parking area just as we got back to Scamp.  Good timing. I pulled over to take a picture of some blooming yucca I had seen on the way up and we noticed the rain in the distance.

I hurried to get a few pictures.

We exited the park at the town of Joshua Tree.  I asked the ranger at the gate for a lunch recommendation.  We opted for the Joshua Tree Saloon, the first one we came to outside the park.  That turkey/bacon/provolone/veggie sandwich on jalapeno cheese bread was amazing!

We reentered the park after lunch.

The mountains seem to be piles of rubble.

The light was changing rapidly with the passing storm clouds.

Andy took this picture of the hole in the clouds out his window.

Baby Joshua Tree.

This is Skull Rock and it really does look like a giant skull.  I only paused for a quick snap and did not get out of the RV.

Well, guess what.  It really does rain hard in the desert. I rained really hard.  Water was washing across the road in low places. Some people were pulling over; it was raining so hard. It passed.

We stopped back at the park headquarters/visitor center to look around and buy a book.

That was our day in the park. We were tired without hiking and returned to the RV.  I have to add that even though it was 98 degrees F today, we did not notice the heat much.  There was a good breeze blowing most of the time.

August 16, 2018 – Clovis to Joshua Tree National Park, California

I was still in bed when Gus left for work and took five-year-old Sierra to school.  We spent the rest of the morning with Erin and three-year-old Eve.

It was dark when we drove into the foothills of the Sierras last night so I took a look around. We spent the night at the side of the house.

The children’s playset was our view out the back of the RV.

I walked out the drive a bit to get the house and the camper together.

We have not seen Erin since a wedding some years ago.  I surprised her with my camera here.

This is adorable three-year-old Eve.

Andy was anxious to get to Joshua Tree National Park, so we left just before Erin went to work (as a fitness trainer) and Eve went to daycare. We took I-5 to Bakersfield and then US 395 to Barstow. Then, from Barstow we took highways 247 and 62 to Twentynine Palms just outside the national park. It was dark when we arrived.



August 15, 2018 – Eureka to Clovis, California

I don’t see how a person could drive down California 101 and not be changed by the experience.  The scenery is stunning and the groves of redwoods are spiritual.  Of course, I don’t have any photos because I was driving. So, I copied a few from Google Images

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Farther south, we came to wine country in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

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We turned off of CA 101 at Petaluma and headed for the Richmond Bridge at the north end of the San Francisco Bay.  That is when the bad, bad traffic began.  We crawled through Berkley, Oakland, San Leandro and then turned East on I-580 to Livermore. Traffic was moving at the speed limit on I-5, but there was a lot of it.  We got off and headed through fruit and vegetable orchards and fields until we reached CA-99 and headed toward Fresno.  We turned off CA-99 at Madera and arrived at Erin’s house after dark, almost nine o’clock.

Erin and Gus were reading the children their bedtime stories.  She gave us instructions for parking at the side of the house and plugging into electricity.  She said we could use the bathroom and kitchen in the mother-in-law apartment there.

We slept with the back doors of the van open and listened to the coyotes howl and the dogs bark all night long.

Sister  Barbara complained that I had not posted any pictures of Cordelia.  I had taken some, but they were not very flattering so I did not post them.  Cordelia sent me two that she likes.