Mesquite, Nevada

After an awe-inspiring trip to Death Valley, we head out from Stovepipe Wells on Hwy 374 toward Beatty, Nevada.  Our destination is Mesquite, Nevada.  In Beatty we pick up Hwy 95 and head south to Las Vegas.  Once in Las Vegas we pick up the 215 beltway east to I-15 north.  The trip takes about three hours including a stop for gas and lunch.

The main reason for our visit to Mesquite is to visit long time friends of my parents.  My parents met these folks during both their RVing days.  Health reasons stopped my folks from future travels and their friends opted for a Park Model in Mesquite.  They spend six months out of the year in Mesquite and the other six months on their ranch in Montana.  They recently purchased a little travel trailer for a trip to Alaska, which they had done before, and Al and I wanted as much information about this impending trip as possible.  The Alaskan Highway (I still refer to it as the Al-Can Hwy) is on our bucket list.  I’ve heard a lot of conflicting opinions on such a trip and was extremely curious to get their take.

Mesquite offers two exits off of Interstate 15.  We opt to exit the first one and stop at Walmart to stock up on supplies.  Before turning into the Walmart parking lot, we notice a banner on some fencing…..RV Resort with an arrow.  We decide to check it out.  The Solstice Motorcoach Resort has only been open a year and is a beautiful facility.  We decide to spend a week and focus on ridding ourselves, the dog, and the rig of dirt and sand.

Solstice Resort, Mesquite NV

The Park sits high above the town offering a beautiful night view of the lit up town and casinos.  The folks at the park are extremely friendly and helpful.  The weather, this last week in February, was still a bit chilly and windy.  We enjoy the stay, and are particular pleased visiting with the friends.  I think it’s time to head south for warmer weather…….

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Another Day Below Sea Level…

Badwater Basin is such a unique, surreal kind of environment, I feel compelled to make the eighteen mile drive once again.  One visit was not enough.

Dante’s View is at the top of this mountain and if you look at the photo closely, there’s a sign 3/4 of the way up.  The sign says “Sea Level“.  Out on the salt flats is a group of photographers.  It appears, this time of the morning (8:30 or so) is a great time to capture the salt flat up close.  I feel a moment of inferiority as we pass some of these photographers.  Strapped around their necks are large SLR cameras with zoom lenses and they carry strong and sturdy tripods.  I have my new light weight tripod along with my little point and shoot Lumix DMC-TZ4 camera.  I wonder, can I capture the flat’s equally as well with my little camera?

I’m sure those SLR’s  are able to capture the finer details far better than my point and shoot, but for my purposes I’m happy with the results of my little camera.  Years ago I toted around a large SLR with interchangeable lenses, filters, etc. but found myself using a point and shoot much more frequently due to the convenience.  It fits in my purse or pocket, and thus I always have my camera readily available.  However…………perhaps a visit on Amazon for a finer camera, just to look mind you, would be in order.  If only I had internet service.  Guess Amazon will just have to wait.

After about thirty minutes of walking around the salt flats and marveling at its uniqueness, it’s time to return to the Rig…..it’s moving day.  We decide to head north and camp at Stovepipe Wells.  Upon arrival, we realize it’s remoteness.  With the exception of Furnace Creek, all of Death Valley is extremely remote and vast.  The wind is blowing and dirt devils are twirling.  We park the Rig with the backend into the wind.Once settled in our new location, we decide to explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near by.  Al and I hike the dunes being sure to keep our eyes on the ground for critters….i.e. snakes and occasionally stop for photos or to marvel at the landscape.  These dunes rise nearly 100 feet from the Mesquite Flat and are in a constant state of change due to the winds.  It appears, wind is the norm in this part of the park.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

The winds continue to kick up and Al and I are covered in a fine layer of dirt and sand.  We return to the Rig for dinner and hopefully another gorgeous sunset.

We were sorely disappointed with the sunset in this location.  However, the night sky and crescent moon made up for any lack in the sunset. If we had it to do over, we would have stayed at Sunset Campground and just drove to the other areas. The constant extreme wind starts to irritate us and we make a plan for the next day.  Although, I feel we’ve barely touched the surface of this awe-inspiring terrain, we decide to head out with the promise of returning next year.  I really did not get my fill of Death Valley and am already planning the hikes and explorations for our future visit.

February 22, 2012

Death Valley…

After a wonderful nights sleep in Death Valley, Al and I discuss the plan for the day over coffee.  National Parks are not usually pet friendly and Death Valley is no exception.  So Al and I plan our day keeping Bear’s needs in

Bear

mind.  Fortunately, the weather will be in the sixties and low seventies, allowing us to leave Bear in the Rig for a few hours.  The old guy (meaning Bear, not Al) needs some extra rest after a rather exciting, fun filled five days in Havasu.  So, he doesn’t mind being left behind to catch up on some much needed rest.  If temperatures were to get much warmer, this would definitely not be an option.  Pets are NOT allowed on any trails and are not allowed to be left unattended in your vehicle.

Dante's View

First stop this morning we head to Zabriskie Point and then onto Dante’s View.  Dante’s View is considered the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park.  The overlook is more than 5000 feet above the floor of Death Valley and overlooks Badwater Basin.

Dante's View

We are very glad we brought our sweatshirts along as the temperature is around 55 degrees and extremely windy at this altitude.  While admiring the views, we meet an elderly gentlemen who shared some of his experiences he encountered in Death Valley over the years.  One of which was a marathon held in July with temperatures reaching 120 degrees.  He was very proud of this accomplishment, righteously so.  Al and I thought it sounded insane as did the bike race.  I admire folks like this gentleman and at seventy he was there to hike Telescope Peak….11049 feet in elevation.

Salt Flats...... Background - Telescope Peak

On our way back to the Rig for lunch, we take a side trip and venture down a dirt road known as Twenty Mule Team Canyon.  This is a one-way 2.7 mile drive through badlands.  The history of this road dates back to the days of mining for Borax in the Valley.  It was a fun little side trip, one I would do again and stop a bit more along the way.

We return to the Rig to find Bear still fast a sleep and I need to coax him to take a walk.  After lunch Al and I head to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.  Badwater Basin is a vast landscape of salt flats.  From a distance it looks like snow.  The salt residue sticks to our tennis shoes and leaves a fine coating on our truck floor mats.

On our return to the campground, we take a detour by taking Artist’s Drive.  Artist’s Drive is a one-way, scenic, nine mile paved loop.  Artist’s Palette consists of multi-hued volcanic hills, best photographed in the afternoon.

We would have liked to visit and hike Natural Bridge Canyon but the day was getting late and we wanted to make sure Bear was ok.  We’ll just need to put that on the bucket list for a future visit.

We return to the Rig and enjoy the rest of the evening with a glass of wine and once again watch the sun set.  Tomorrow we’ll move to another campground and check out Death Valley to the north.

Land of Great Extremes

Death Valley has long been on my short list of places I have wanted to see.  So when Al and I decided to hit the road, Al wanted to know my top choices of locations I’ve always wanted to visit.  Keeping time of year and weather in mind, February in Death Valley seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Have you ever wanted to do something or go somewhere really badly only to be disappointed once achieved?  Well that’s kind of how I was feeling about the trip to Death Valley.  I thought, “this is a place I’ve wanted to visit for the last twenty years, and am finally able to do so.  I bet it will be anticlimactic”.  NOT!!!!  So worth my while.  Absolutely loved it and plan to return next year for further exploration.

Badwater Basin - 282 ft. below sea level - salt flats

From Lake Havasu City we traveled north on Hwy 95 to Interstate 40 west.  We took exit 78, Kelbaker Road, north through the Mojave National Preserve.  Filled up with gas in Baker, California, before crossing over Interstate 15 and headed north on Hwy 127.

The land is vast and the road free of company.  As Al and I sit in our climate controlled truck with cushioned leather interior, we marvel at the Pioneers who first discovered these lands on horseback and wagon.  I don’t dare complain about the lack of cell phone coverage.  Yes, that’s right folks…no cell phone service in Death Valley or a good 100 miles around.  There’s actually pay phone booths at a couple of the resorts.  Flat tire?  You’ll need to fix it yourself cause AAA ain’t coming!

We had planned to camp at Furnace Creek.  However, the Furnace Creek Campground is closed for the next year for repairs/updates.  So we stay at the Sunset Campground.

Sunset Campground

It’s pretty much just an organized gravel parking lot, but at $12 a night I

Camp Site

can’t complain.  We just need a level spot to park the Rig and crash for a couple of nights.  They have a tiered overflow lot that provides the most spectacular sunset set views from your RV.  We spent a total of three nights in Death Valley and each night we sat outside to watch the sunset and once down, the sky would turn an amazing red.  We would also watch the sky darken to the most incredible deep, deep midnight blue.  The stars were bright and the crescent moon amazing.  There are some things in life that can’t be captured on film and must be experienced first hand.  This was definitely one of those moments…..a vision I’ll remember and highly recommend.

Our first night in Death Valley, we sleep well and look forward to our explorations the next day…..

Meeting the Neighbors…

One of the beauties of boondocking, is you can be as social or anti-social as you choose.  Since Bear insists on taking me on numerous walks through-out the day, this provides that perfect opportunity to say hi to the neighbors.  Bear and Alex, a 12 year old Golden Retriever, became fast friends and enjoyed visiting.  Turns out Alex and his parents are from the Alamosa, Colorado area, located about an hour and half from our sticks n bricks home.

visiting with neighbors

Small world sometimes.  Saturday two more rigs pull in, friends of the Alamosa folks.  Reminds me of the pioneers and circling the wagons.  Our once quiet boondock spot is now much more crowded, but still plenty of room for more in this rather large lot, not the case in the actual campground though.  They are packed in tight.  Turns out, this is a big weekend for Lake Havasu City and folks from all over come here for the spectacular fireworks and the Rockabilly Concert….big deal round these here parts!

Park area

We really lucked out stumbling upon this spot on this weekend.  Al and I enjoyed ourselves so much, we plan to return next year….same time, same place.  By the end of our stay, we had all exchanged email addresses with the neighbors and invitations to each others sticks n bricks home.  One couple happened to be full-timers and we hope to run into them again….perhaps on their way through Colorado this summer.

So far, I’m really liking this gypsy lifestyle.  Next stop, Death Valley!

Lake Havasu City

Al and I have wanted to visit Lake Havasu for quite sometime.  We also wanted to check out Quartzsite, AZ.  With no firm plans or commitments, we depart Desert Edge’s RV and head to Interstate 10, westward bound.

on the road again!

We stop in Quartzsite for gas and I hop into the Rig, make us a couple of sandwiches, take Bear for a short walk, and after eating check the place out.  Quartzsite is an interesting, eclectic sort of place.  The RV parks are jam packed this time of year.  So we decide to head north on Hwy 95 toward Havasu and make several notes about the Quartzsite area for next winters excursion.

Lake Havasu City is loaded with RV Parks and just outside of town are numerous spots to boondock.  It is a playground mecca for adults.  There are endless places for ATV/Four Wheeling.  All sorts of water activities are available from boating, jet skiing, sailing, paddling, etc.  If you don’t have your own toys, there are dozens of places to rent the toy of choice.

Lake Havasu

We want to camp as close to the water as possible and pick Crazy Horse Campground to spend a few nights.  Fortunately for us, the campground is all booked up and we are sent to their overflow lot.

Our home for five days

When I say we were fortunate the campground was booked, I sincerely mean fortunate.  The RV’s in the campground are packed in like Sardines.  Hardly enough elbow room between units…..not my cup of tea!  The overflow lot overlooks the lake and there’s plenty of room for everyone.  The ATV trails provide excellent hiking for Bear and me, that is, until all the ATVer’s show up.

young girl on her ATV near our site

Saturday some young kids have fun tooling around on their four-wheelers.  They drive slow and responsibly and we’re not bothered by their activities.  It’s nice to see kids being kids and playing out in the dirt instead of sitting in front of a computer/TV screen.

Although I would not recommend Crazy Horse Campground, I would recommend staying in their overflow lot.  The Campground is old, the staff and guests were less than friendly, but the location is awesome.  We were able to walk to the famous London Bridge and stores.

London Bridge

The RV Park is on an island/peninsula and we need to cross the London Bridge for access.  The shoreline along the island and mainland is a lovely park setting with walking trails, a dog park, marina, beaches, and picnic areas.  Lake Havasu City was developed by Robert McCulloch in 1963 on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu.  He later purchased the London Bridge, which was dismantled and shipped to Lake Havasu City.  It was completed in 1971 and connects the peninsula to the mainland.

activities of all kind!

Al and I take advantage of the beautiful, sunny weather and walk the London Bridge and shoreline.

If you can think it, they do it!

Later back at the campsite, we are buzzed by what I call flying lawn mowers.  There are about half a dozen buzzing around and Al is totally infatuated.  I believe the proper term is powered gliders and Al is ready to return to the skies.  Yeah right, I don’t think so!  Although Al does not

powered glider

miss his commercial aviation days, he does occasionally miss those daring Navy missions and flying on and off an aircraft carrier.  Aah, to be young again!

I leave Al to his thoughts and have him build me a campfire while I prepare dinner.

Staying an Extra Day…

We’ve been enjoying our stay here at Desert’s Edge RV Village and decide to stay an extra day.  This has given Al the time to take the truck to the mechanic in Camp Verde to check things out, which turned out to be a very good idea.  The fuel control module was going bad.  Once replaced, she’s running better.

mimosas in my future?

The week has flown by.  We had a chance to visit long time friends in Gilbert and Al was able to get in a couple of days of shooting at Ben Avery.  He’s a happy camper as is our little Bear.  Bear is enjoying numerous walks and visits with the other four-legged guests.

Al & Son shooting

I on the other hand, have stayed busy catching up on some reading and getting some meals and groceries together for boondocking.  I made a bunch of breakfast Burritos, which is a super big deal for this midwestern, German gal who didn’t even know what Mexican food was until the age of sixteen.

So the frig and pantry are packed, dog and RV are cleaned, trucks running good, and Al and I are formulating a game plan.  We were hoping to head to McDowell or Usery Regional Park for a few days, but it’s President’s Day weekend and everything in the area appears to be all booked up.  Plan B, point the Rig west and see where we end.

Hwy 95, north of Parker, AZ

Enjoying Phoenix…

Well, we are finally in Phoenix.  Let’s see, it only took us several false starts and an extra two and a half weeks to get here, but we’re here.  We’ve been at our favorite RV park since Saturday.  We enjoy Desert’s Edge RV Village for several reasons.  First and fore most, it’s only ten minutes from our son’s home.  Second, it is very pet

Dog wash area – Desert’s Edge

friendly.  Third, no Park Models (no offense to anyone).  Fourth, awesome location to all kinds of shopping.  Fifth, no age restrictions (again, no offense.  Al may be old enough for 55+, but I am definitely not and don’t care to push it.  I’m getting old quick enough 😦   Sixth, they have a bunch of pull-thru sites.  Great when staying only for a night or two.  Seventh, facilities are clean, staff and guests are all super friendly.

Christmas 2010 - Al, Ingrid & kids

One major downside….it’s pricey, which is why we usually stay here for short time periods.  We did, however stay for a bit over 2 weeks Christmas 2010.  The orange trees were loaded with oranges then.

daughter learns to make mimosa

There are three pet runs and numerous doggy poop bag stations throughout the facility.  No restrictions on where you can walk your pet, just please pick-up.  The sites themselves are nice.  Al and I enjoy more room and thus prefer boondocking or State Parks.  We tried to make a reservation for tomorrow at either McDowell Regional Park or Usery Regional Park, but due to the three day weekend, they are all booked up.  Bummer…we’ll get on the road in the morning and point the Rig west and see where it takes us.  After all, this is just the beginning of our adventure.

In a dog run looking out

Pull-thru sites

False Starts…

Finally after several false starts, we head out on the road Friday, February 10th.  The drive is uneventful for the most part and the scenery is enjoyable as always.  The Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg, Colorado, are loaded with a fresh coating of snow…beautiful.  The truck, however, does not seem to be running at it’s best, which stresses us out.

Spanish Peaks, Walsenburg, CO

This past September, we came to Phoenix to visit our son, who had recently purchased a home.  As a former Home Builder, we had plenty of extra furniture and decor.  We loaded up the construction trailer with furniture and home decor and hauled it to our son’s new place in Phoenix.  We stayed with him a couple of weeks to help him put the place together.  We helped him paint.  I decorated.  Al showed him how to replace a toilet, as well as other handyman items that needed repairing.  The house was built in the late 90’s but had been vacant for almost a year.  Thus, needing some attention.  Oh, and yes, our son very much appreciated all our help and assistance.

After two weeks of work AND some play, we headed back to Colorado with an empty trailer.  Since we had left so early (5:00 am), Bear needed a break, as did I 😉  We stopped at a Rest Area off I-17 just south of Sedona.  The truck stalls before Al can even get it into park and never starts again.  We get towed to a Ford dealership in Camp Verde/Cottonwood and a hour later are informed of the bad news….the turbo went out…$$$.  Our son came and picked us up for an additional ten day stay.  Why did it take so long to fix, you ask?  Our diesel mechanic had a heart attack while working on our vehicle.  Fortunately, being in a small town, the local Cardiologist heard the mechanics name being called in for the emergency and was waiting for his arrival at the hospital.  This mechanic had worked on the doctor’s F-350 earlier in the year and was very pleased with his work.  So now he’ll return the favor by working on the mechanics heart.  Four days and a couple of stints later, the mechanic finished the job on our truck.  Hearty folks around here!

We were very pleased with the way the truck ran and performed on the drive back to Colorado.  A month later, Al loaded up his hunting gear and ATV and headed to the Flat Tops for Elk hunting.  The truck performed great and gave him no trouble starting in the below zero temps even without plugging in the engine heater.  His Wisconsin buddies had trouble starting their regular gas vehicles at the high altitude and freezing temperatures. So Al was pretty happy with his truck, which is why it surprised us so when the truck didn’t seem to be performing properly.  Breaking down while hauling a 5th wheel is not fun.  Thus, explains our stress.

Rest Area, west bound I-10, west of Deming, NM

After a long day of driving south from Pueblo West, Colorado, we spend the night in a rest area located west of Deming off I-10 in New Mexico.  Someone had posted info on their blog about this rest stop, and we decided to check it out for ourselves.  It was nice and very convenient.  They had these little shelters/casitas for parking next to away from the parking lot.  Just as we were settling in and committed to staying the night, a train went by just on the other side of the fence….pretty darn close.  Al and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and headed to bed.  Yes, there was train traffic, but a whistle never blew so it was not bothersome.  We would definitely spend the night here again.

neighboring train tracks

Saturday the 11th, we arrive in Phoenix.  We head to our favorite RV Resort – Desert’s Edge RV Village…….   DesertsEdgeRV.com

I did want to mention a really nice Rest Area just on the north side of the little town of Trinidad, Colorado.  It’s on the west side of I-25 and is easy on and easy off for both north and south bound folks.  There’s plenty of room for all Rigs, facilities are clean, brochure area, and a lovely view of Fisher’s Peak.

view of Fisher's Peak, town of Trinidad, CO

Winter Doldrums…

As I sit in my RV admiring the desert sunrise, I reflect on the happenings or lack there of over the past twelve days.  Friday, February 3, brought plenty of snow to Colorado’s front range.  Fortunately, Al and I had loaded the Rig with essentials the day before…i.e. tools, battery charger, ladder, outdoor chairs, coffee, second container of coffee, you know the important stuff you don’t want to forget.  We target Tuesday the 7th to get on the road.

Pueblo Reservoir

Friday’s snow storm brought about four to six inches to the Pueblo area and about 2 feet to the Denver area.  Our daughter, in Fort Collins, had snow up to her knees.  By Saturday afternoon, the snow is already starting to melt, but I’m suffering from some serious winter doldrums.  I decide to head to the State Park to admire the beauty of the season.  Not much activity at the Park.  Could it be because it’s only 17 degrees?  I go to my favorite Prairie Dog village to see if the little guys are active.  A little FYI for folks out there with four-legged children.  Prairie Dogs have flees that are known to occasionally carry the Bubonic Plague.  You never want to allow your pets anywhere near a Prairie Dog Colony.  The plague can be very harmful to pets and elderly adults.  Once the Prairie Dogs get infested with these fleas, it can wipe out the entire colony.

Well after running around the Pueblo State Park and taking some photos, I head home to warm up.  I didn’t even see another vehicle out and about.  I question my logic.

Al and I review the plans for the trip and make a list of items we still need to load up.  I have discovered there is a down side to having too much time to pack and prepare.  I decide there’s more clothes and shoes I need to bring because you just never know.  I find another five books to bring along.  One of which is my three-inch thick Webster’s dictionary, published in 1981.  Out of curiosity, I look up the word internet.  Um, not in there.  Guess I won’t find google either 🙂

By Monday the 6th, the snow has finally melted enough for Al to hook up the Rig, turn it around, and pack last-minute items.   However…….we thought we could head out Tuesday morning, but realized another snow storm was on its way.  Oh well, we’ll play it by ear.