Goodbye Lake Havasu

After almost three months of hanging around Lake Havasu City, Arizona, the itch to roll became too strong to ignore. So today we said goodbye to Lake Havasu City. We’ve hitched up and the wheels are rolling in search of new scenery. However, we won’t be venturing too far from the Colorado River. We’re actually going from one man-made Colorado River lake to another.

sunset at Lake Havasu

The sunsets are always beautiful!

When jello jiggles

lighthouseWe’ve thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Lake Havasu City. It was never our plan to visit western Arizona this winter, but when hurricane Harvey hit our favorite Texas Gulf Coast town square in the middle  …. well, let’s just say the jello jiggled  and we were onto plan B.

When an RVer says, “Our plans are written in jello“, they basically mean their travel itinerary is flexible, ever-changing and not firm. Your lesson for the day on RVing jargon 🤣

Once our friends, the one’s we met last summer in Prescott, heard we weren’t going to Texas, they encouraged us to come spend some time with them on their property in Lake Havasu City (sure, twist my arm).They were eager to share their town with us and show us why they love living in Havasu.

When Al and I sold our Colorado home on a whim five years ago, we thought we’d only be doing this full-time RVing thing for a year or two. Thus, we’re always looking at real estate, especially me. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Hey, you can’t take the home builder/realtor out of me just because I live in an RV. I still love architecture and home design.

golf course

Golf is popular in Lake Havasu City

With that said, our search to find a new home base started the minute we sold that last house. But if we’re being honest here, this RVing gig is kind of addictive and the thought of putting down roots in one location usually finds us hitching up and rolling before putting any ink to paper. To say we can’t (don’t want to) make a commitment would be an understatement.

float plane

We feel very fortunate to have stayed and explored some beautiful parts of this country, and when we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in an area, we think about the possibility of a home base. That certainly doesn’t mean we’d ever give up RVing. Nope, we enjoy RVing way too much to stop anytime soon!

What we like about Lake Havasu City

For starters, there’s a lake here along with a ton of other recreational opportunities. All that recreation makes for a great destination for a variety of people. During winter months, the town attracts retirees from colder regions around the U.S. and Canada. During spring months, the community fills with university students on spring break.

Whatever hobbies or interests you may have, it’s most likely happening around here. There are all kinds of activities available for all ages. There are clubs to join for those living here and festivals to attend for locals and tourists alike.

If you enjoy gambling, there are a bunch of casinos up and down the Colorado River and many offer live entertainment including top name talent.

A variety of competitions take place in Lake Havasu City. Just a few of the events include the International World Jet Ski Races, a pyrotechnics convention, a speedway, professional fishing tournaments, custom boat regattas, charity events, a balloon festival, and more.

Toys, toys, and more toys! It’s all about the toys around Lake Havasu City …. Boats – you’ll see everything from kayaks to jet boats and everything in between. Cars – hot rods, sports cars, old cars. 4×4’s – Jeep’s, ATV’s, UTV’s. Aircrafts – large and small. RVs of all shapes and sizes with plenty of RV parks, state parks and boondocks to camp.

Weather – From October to April the weather is wonderful and perfect for outdoor activities. The mild winter weather is a snowbirders delight.

A regular part of our day included a three-mile out and back walk along the Bridgewater Channel. Al and I would start our walk at Rotary Park and walk under the iconic London Bridge and turn around at the Lake Havasu State Park. Hiking the stairs at the London Bridge became part of daily exercise routine.

Bridgewater Channel

walking along the Bridgewater Channel is a popular activity

Housing and property taxes are relatively affordable and most lots have room to park those toys. There are some great hiking trails at the south end of town at Sara Park, and where there’s water, there are birds. So even though I didn’t get a chance to do my usual bird photography along the Gulf Coast this winter, I still managed to capture a few bird photos along the shores of Lake Havasu.

lighthouses of Lake Havasu City

Location – the location is great for connecting with like-minded folks. We kept very social during our stay, not only with our Havasu friends and their friends, but with other RVers. With Quartzsite only an hours drive to the south and Laughlin an hour to the north, there’s always someone passing through or stopping in Lake Havasu City.

Our latest meet up was with Debbie and Steve when they spent a week in the area. Then a week later when Al and I needed to make a Sam’s Club run up to Bullhead City, we reconnected not only with them but also with their friends.

RVers meet up at Bubba Gumps in Laughlin, NV. We meet some of Steve and Debbie’s friends. From left to right – Craig, Steve, Debbie, Al, me, Steve Dianne, Jo

The downside to Lake Havasu City

Weather is not only a huge plus half the year, it’s also a negative. Summer gets hot around here. Lake Havasu City is lower in elevation than Phoenix, Arizona, which means summertime temperatures soar into the 100 degree Fahrenheit range regularly. Lake Havasu City holds the all-time record high temperature in Arizona history with 128 °F recorded on June 29, 1994. However, on December 31, 2014, snow actually fell on the town.

The desert landscape around here is rather barren. You won’t find any majestic saguaro’s or desert wildflowers, but you will find plenty of rock. The longer I was here, the more I was bothered by the lack of vegetation.

Shopping is limited. However, Havasu pretty much has everything I need these days. The biggest draw back for me personally is the distance to the nearest city. The closest major city is Las Vegas which is a 2 1/2 hour drive away while Phoenix is a 3 1/2 hour boring drive away. That means I can’t just pop in on my kids for lunch in Phoenix. Yeah, a bit too far away for a spur of the moment visit with one of the kiddos.

London Bridge

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Recommended businesses

When we spend a prolonged amount of time in a new location, we have the opportunity to learn about the area and that includes where to shop and good places to eat. Just in case you find yourself visiting western Arizona, here are some businesses in Lake Havasu City that we enjoyed and feel comfortable recommending.

Palm treesGrocery stores: I’m usually fond of shopping at a Kroger Grocery store (aka Fry’s or Smith’s in Arizona) but in Lake Havasu City, I prefer Arizona’s local supermarket brand, Bashas. The produce is fresh, local (when possible) and reasonably priced. Safeway comes in second. There’s also a RV friendly Walmart in town for non-perishables.

Repair shops: During our drive from Phoenix to Lake Havasu City, we discovered we had a broken shackle on the RV. Once we set up camp and reassessed the situation, Al decided he didn’t feel comfortable doing the job himself. After all, we were on private property plus set up on gravel. With a little research, we scheduled the work with  Adrenaline Trailers. They were more than happy to sell us just the parts, but we decided this seemed like a good time to have the bearings repacked and the trailer brakes tested along with having all the shackles replaced. They did a great job, although they were a tad messy with the grease.

My truck needed general maintenance. This was the second time I used this small, two-man shop for service on my Toyota Tacoma and both times I was pleased with the work and the price. I even recommended E & J Auto Repair to fellow RVers, Laura and Kevin, for needed repairs on their Xterra. They too were pleased with Ed’s work. He doesn’t have a website but he can be contacted at – E & J Auto Repair, 1600 W. Acoma Blvd #60, Lake Havasu City, AZ (928) 854-9399.

Lake Havasu Arizona

Lake Havasu, Arizona

RV Parts: The top rubber seals on our RV slides were starting to deteriorate from all the extreme sun that we experience here in the desert southwest. We have used rubber conditioner, but being exposed to over 300 days of sunshine a year and 70-100 degree F temperatures takes a toll on our equipment. (I know, tough job dealing with all that sunshine 😁) The folks at Sunshine RV were very helpful in making sure we ordered the right rubber slide seal for our RV. Sunshine RV became our go-to shop for RV parts. A new propane valve and shower seals were part of our purchases.

Computer Repair: Whiz Kid was extremely helpful when I encountered some computer issues.

Car wash: Our equipment was in dire need of cleaning. Mesquite Car Wash is owned and operated by a husband and wife team who enjoy RVing. As a matter of fact, they spent a year RVing full-time and would like to hit the road again if they could find a good manager for their business. Al and I had both our trucks detailed and the RV washed. They even have a nice outdoor sitting area and an inside ‘tiki shed’ with TV for entertainment while you wait. Good job and super friendly staff!

Restaurants: Lake Havasu City offers a nice variety of local establishments as well as some of my favorite chain restaurants. This is a tourist town after all. On the local front, our first stop had to be Mudshark Brewery for their Vanilla Caramel Porter and Burger Monday special. Al  loves this porter and first discovered it being sold at Total Wine & More in Phoenix. Once Al realized the maker of this tasty porter was located in Lake Havasu City, a visit to Mudshark Brewery became tops on the ‘must do‘ list.

Next up was Hangar 24. Monday through Thursday during lunch they offer all their burgers at a special price of $7 and after 7:00 p.m. the appetizers are $5. The food here is really good, and I insisted we eat here one more time before heading out of town. A fun bonus for me was the ’70’s/’80’s rock music playing in the background. Guess with all the silvers in town, they considered the lunch crowd when choosing what music to play.

Hangar 24

Hangar 24 has a very casual party atmosphere with picnic table seating, occasional live entertainment, and even an outdoor swimming pool. Yeah, you read that right … a brewery/restaurant with a swimming pool. I’m pretty sure this is a popular spot for spring breakers. Silvers for lunch and breakers at night …. smart marketing!

Barley Bros Brewery

Barley Bros Brewery has a great location – check out the view of the London Bridge

I had heard mixed reviews from fellow RVers about Barley Brothers Brewery. So we decided to check it out ourselves. The location is prime. Talk about a view! Of the four breweries we sampled, this one seemed to be the most expensive and didn’t offer any specially priced items. Although we enjoyed our meal and drinks, we enjoyed the view and location more.

College Brewery Lake Havasu City

Meeting up with Steve and Debbie at College Brewery

Near the end of our Lake Havasu City visit, we met Debbie and Steve at College Street Brewery and were pleasantly surprised with the happy hour prices … good food, good drinks, and of course, good company. Steve’s flight of beer was $6 while my margarita was under $4. College Street Brewery turned into one of those restaurants we would definitely return to for happy hour.

Overall, Al thought Mudshark had the best beer. We both thought Hangar 24 had the best burgers. College Street Brewery had the best happy hour and Barley Brothers offered the best view!

The end of our visit

We had a great time hanging around Lake Havasu City and know we’ll be back … just not during the summer months. Hmm, after writing this post, perhaps Lake Havasu City should go on the short list of places to consider when we’re ready for that home base. It’s a thought!Lake Havasu Arizona

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When a Bar is more than a Bar

When a visit to a bar is as much about the experience as it is about the beverages, it’s time to grab some friends and make a day of it. The Desert Bar is one of those places that’s quirky, unique and fun, and the drive to get there is part of the entertainment.

Desert Bar Parker Arizona

The main road leading into the Desert Bar

We were first introduced to the Nellie E. Saloon, otherwise know as the Desert Bar, five years ago, and when blogging friend, Laura, expressed interest in going, we were quick to invite ourselves.

bloggers strolling along Lake Havasu Arizona

Al, me, Kevin, and Laura

We met Laura and Kevin of Chapter 3 Travels for the first time a few days earlier for a tasty lunch at the Mudshark Brewery followed by a stroll along the Bridgewater Channel here in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The Desert Bar is one of those places where the more the merrier. So gather your friends and prepare for the fun to begin with an interesting drive for starters.

Getting there is part of the fun

The Desert Bar is located in the desert southwest boonies in the heart of the Buckskin Mountains just north of Parker, Arizona.  Once we turned east off Highway 95 on Cienega Springs Road, we continued into the undeveloped desert on a rough, dusty dirt road for about five miles (which took about thirty minutes …. yep, 30 minutes to drive 5 miles).  Although driving a truck was a plus, I’d venture to say an all terrain vehicle would be the perfect mode of transportation.

UTV and the Desert Bar

perfect mode of transportation to get to the Desert Bar

We did see vehicles of all kinds traversing the rough road, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend a low clearance vehicle. It shouldn’t be a problem for a  CRV,  SUV, or any kind of truck. We drove our Toyota Tacoma and Laura and Kevin drove their Nissan Xterra with no problem.

Desert Bar road

For the more adventurous or those off-road enthusiast, you have the opportunity to drive to the Desert Bar via the “back way”. Nothing like experiencing more extreme hills, rocky terrain and unique desert scenery. You might even find the landscape dotted with old, abandoned mining shafts and relics. Obviously, the back way is for 4×4 vehicles only.

Desert Bar

These folks drove in the “back way” … over them thar hills!

The Desert Bar is an open air establishment and powered 100% on solar.  The bar is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to six.

Desert Bar Parker ArizonaWe went on a Sunday afternoon and this place was buzzing with activity … drinking, dining, dancing, and live entertainment.

I thought the live entertainment was really good and with plenty of people dancing, I think others shared my opinion.

There were three different food vendors to choose from that day and each offers a specialty. Al and I went with the hamburgers, and were not disappointed. Yum! There were two bars that are both fully stocked, and although the choice of beer is limited, our margaritas were tasty.

Desert Bar, Parker, Arizona

The Desert Bar – powered 100% on solar

Desert Bar solar

Solar panels act as shade cover from the intense desert sun

live entertainment at the Desert Bar

I really enjoyed the live entertainment. The band played a little bit of everything.

In 1975, Ken Coughlin built the Desert Bar at the site of an old copper mining camp. Although the remnants of the original mining camp are mostly gone, the western spirit lives on. The parking lot is located on the very site where the mining camp once stood. At first, the saloon was a three-sided enclosed room, not much bigger than a small storage shed. Today, while maintaining its Old West character, the owner continues to expand it along with adding more vintage relics adorning the landscape.

Not a church, but yet a church

Another novelty stands outside of the saloon in the bar’s parking lot. What appears to be a “church” rising from the desert floor, is more of a façade than an actual building. The well-aged patina of its copper roof, adds unique character to this one of a kind structure.

The church is constructed of solid steel with walls and ceilings made from stamped tin. There is a tiny inside area. On the interior walls are plaques bearing the names of people who donated money to help build it. There are no actual services held here. The structure simply provides a picture perfect backdrop with old west appeal.

During our first visit back in 2013, we did see a couple renewing their vows on the church steps …. complete with minister, witnesses, flowers and dressed in old west wedding attire.

A true taste of Arizona

If you ever find yourself in western Arizona, consider visiting the Desert Bar. It’s an entertaining, fun one of a kind experience in the desert southwest!

Desert Bar, Parker, Arizona

one of a kind bar

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RVing in a Big City

I love the diversity of spending time camped in nature one day and living near a major city the next.  It’s an amazing joy not to have to choose one or the other and it’s probably one of my favorite things about living in the RV full-time – I’m not committed to a location. This sense of freedom is hard to explain, but I firmly believe it’s one of the top reasons RVing can be addictive.

Fork in the road

Fork in the road – city living or country living?

When you come to a fork in the road take it! – Yogi Berra

Fork in the Road …

The freedom to choose where we camp is wonderful, but there are times I feel torn and have trouble making a decision.  Which way should we go? There’s so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, events, restaurants, stores … the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature is always a strong draw and many times that’s my preference.

photo taken with Panasonic DC-ZS70

Taken with my new Panasonic DC-ZS70   Set on Auto – F6  – 1/125 – 373mm

Guess what? I don’t have to choose one or the other to call home.  One month here, one month there, or next month it’s something in between. That’s how we roll. Ah, the beauty of full-time RV living. We get to be non-committal.

After spending three months in Phoenix, Arizona (Oct, Nov and Dec), we started off the New Year by moving over to western Arizona to the small tourist town of Lake Havasu City. We’ve visited this area many times before and love returning. Even though our first two weeks here have whizzed by, I’ve had time to reflect on our three month stay in the big city.

inspiration, crafts, ideas, quotes

Phoenix, Arizona

It’s a rare treat to find a RV friendly city, and when we do, we like to plan a lengthy stay allowing us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in everything big city life has to offer. Since our children live in Phoenix and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become a regular stopping point for us. You’ll find us traveling in, out and around Phoenix regularly.

Phoenix resorts

JW Marriott Camelback

The Phoenix valley is not only a super popular snowbird location, but also popular with vacationers and convention traffic.  Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March being the busiest due to baseball spring training.

Reservations for whatever kind of travel you choose during those three months are a definite must. You’ll also find lodging prices at a premium.

The lodging options are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from basic campgrounds to full on RV resorts complete with pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to Airbnb’s, to mega resorts, and everything in between.

Did I mention how awesome the weather is around here? That is, excluding summer of course!

Lost Dutchman State Park

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park is one of our favorites. Barely fifteen minutes to grocery stores, restaurants plus amazing hiking trails right out our door. Scottsdale and Phoenix are an easy drive away.

I can't adult today

There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, or home shows to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. My daughter and I always manage to find time to attend a few.

I’m never at a loss of things to see or do during my visits to the Phoenix valley. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore.

Here are some of the things we’ve done in Phoenix …..

Scottsdale farmers market

Farmers market held all winter long in Old Town Scottsdale. Photo taken Dec 23 – yep, DECEMBER!

beignets farmers market

My friend,  Faye, and I enjoying freshly made Beignets at the farmers market. Come on, can’t be all about veggies! Since we visited the farmers market early morning, it was still on the cold side. By noon, we didn’t need those jackets any more. There are bunches of 5 star restaurants with award winning chefs located throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale …. plenty of culinary delights to satisfy any palette.

TD Ameritrade seminar

Conventions and seminars are held throughout the year. Our son and daughter join us at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Resort for a TD Ameritrade seminar.

JJ Kinahan

This was the second day of the TD Ameritrade seminar and I got to meet Joe “JJ” Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher like me, shaking hands with JJ was a treat. JJ was getting ready to hit the links and enjoy the beautiful Phoenix weather while it was snowing in Chicago. TD Ameritrade and Think or Swim hold educational seminars once or twice a year in Phoenix and Al and I try never to pass one up. Always educational. We attended one of the best seminars yet this past December and had a couple of ah-ha moments.

I was really excited about attending the WordPress Camp, but was sorely disappointed. I thought I’d be surrounded by fellow bloggers in the audience, but instead the vast majority of attendees work in the tech industry. This conference was geared toward businesses who work behind the scenes, who write code and do lots of other stuff that I can’t begin to articulate. It was all Greek to me. At least the food trucks were good!

Desert Botanical Garden butterfly display

Daughter taking a selfie with a butterfly at the Desert Botanical Garden

Chili and Chocolate FestDaughter and I watch a cooking demo at the Chili and Chocolate Festival

western history

Lots of western history to explore around here along with the amazing trails.

Family and friends

Being able to spend time with family and friends is our number one reason for hanging around Phoenix

Let’s get social …

Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure! During our three-month stay in Phoenix, we enjoyed several get togethers with bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

Blogging

Happy hour at Cave Creek Regional Park. From left to right: Dave, Faye, Al, Sue, Dave, me, and Lewis in the front. We all met via our blogs first – blogging leads to friendships!

Jeanette doesn’t write a blog but she’s been following mine for a while and she reached out to me last year as she and her husband were preparing to RV full-time. Since then, they’ve sold the house, moved into the RV and are workamping at Usery Regional Park this winter. We’re hoping to do some boondocking with them this spring once the hot weather pushes us all north.

Nancy on the left, me on the right. Nancy and her sweet man don’t RV but they do like to travel. They own a home just north of Phoenix. She and I met via our blogs a few years ago and we enjoy getting together whenever we’re both in town. She’s always so kind including us in their social gatherings at their home. Thanks Nancy

This is just a small sampling of the folks we socialized with during this years three month stay in Phoenix. Every time we visit this city, our social calendar is as full or empty as we’d like it to be. Over the years, we’ve made some great friends via the blog and via RVing and Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.

How about wildlife?

Although I enjoy most aspects of big city living, I have a need to be close to nature and wildlife. Fortunately, with plenty of parks and open space, I’m still able to get my nature fix while staying in Phoenix.

coyote

You can expect to see or at least hear plenty of coyotes.

wild burro

wild burros are more elusive and a treat to see while out hiking

Gambels Quail

The Quail are everywhere and I find them exceptionally entertaining.

Gambels Quail are everywhere, and if you can’t see them, you can quite often hear them. Since they fly as a last resort, spotting a covey of quail running across a street, sidewalk, or trail is a common sight, and always makes me smile.

Hummingbirds are also very common and entertaining to watch. Gosh, those little things buzz around so fast that it takes a great deal of patience to capture a photograph of one – a non blurry photograph. Obviously my patience during this visit eluded me as evidenced by the lack of a photograph. Oh well, next time!

Another fun thing to do …

There’s some great scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city is one of my favorite scenic drives. Driving the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip, but before embarking on this drive do your homework. The stretch of road between the town of Tortilla Flat and Lake Roosevelt is a gravel road and can be pretty rough in spots.

holidays in PhoenixIt was a very busy three months …

Aside from all the socializing and activities, we tried to get in as much hiking as possible to work off all those extra calories consumed. It was the holiday season after all.

In addition, we managed to complete a bunch of maintenance on the trucks, RV, and our teeth 😒 And as if that wasn’t enough, I threw myself into a RV remodel project.

I’m not ready to reveal the remodel just yet, but let’s just say, there was at least 24 yards of fabric involved with 10 more yards in my future. I’m loving my new window treatments and the fresh new look and wish I’d a done this sooner. Since we’ll be bouncing around Arizona the next few months, I’ll focus on completing the remodel in May when we’re back in a full hook-up site and sitting stationary for a few months. We  plan on spending most of the summer back in Prescott, Arizona again.

And speaking of sitting still, it came as a total shock to Al and me that at the end of our three-month stay in a RV Park in Phoenix, we weren’t ready to hit the road. Usually we get antsy after about a month and can’t get the wheels rolling quick enough.  Not this time! We hemmed and hawed about extending our stay …. there’s that fork in the road again …. decision time. In the end, we lifted the jacks on New Years day in search of new scenery.

Cheers to new and fun adventures in 2018! Maybe we’ll bump into you down the road 😀

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Southwest Chicken Soup and the Saguaro Cactus

It’s mid December. The days are short, the air is crisp, and the holiday lights are sparkling. Winter has arrived and we’ve finally had a cold front roll through here in the desert southwest. In Phoenix, Arizona, this past week the thermometer barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit … Brrrr! I’m sure my friends to the north are either tilting their head quizzically or scowling at me.

superstition mountains arizona

Hey, when it’s been a consistent 90 plus degrees, anything much less than 70 degrees feels cold and has me putting on a sweatshirt. With that said, I think I’ve officially turned into a reptile. What other explanation could there be as to why 70 degrees would feel so cold to me? Crazy, I know! However, I must say the mornings and evenings do get into the 50’s and even 40’s, which is definitely cold and has me pop’n on the heat in the RV.

Easy Southwest Chicken SoupWith winter in full swing, it was time to make a big pot of soup, but not just any soup, Southwest Chicken Soup. Nothing like warming up from the inside out.

Considering I’m in one of my favorite places; the desert southwest, why not embrace the unique landscape and culinary flavors of the region!

With the soup simmering in the slow cooker, the RV is filled with a wonderful scent. While inhaling the delicious aroma filling the RV, I glance out the window and admire the landscape.

Saguaro Cactus

I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing.   As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this three armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists.  I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny.  The background contained scenes of red rock, cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed … all foreign to a young gal growing up in northern Illinois among cornfields.

Saguaro Cactus

Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced:  sa-wha-ro.

Saguaro CactusThe saguaro cactus is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters), and is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, some parts of southern California, and northern Mexico.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.  (Hmm, makes me feel like I’m a tiny spring chicken in comparison 😀) It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop a side arm. Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.

flowering saguaro cactus

Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two during its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.

This army of cacti seem to have their own personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like cartoon characters, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two are identical. Oh and by the way, the plural is either cacti OR cactuses – either is considered acceptable.

saguaro

AND then there is the rare crested saguaro.  Why are some crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.

crested saguaro cactusBut on rare occasion, the growing tip produces a fan like form which is referred to as a crested or cristate saguaro.

Biologists disagree about why some saguaros grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage, but no one knows for sure why the unusual growth occurs.

Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!

crested saguaro cactus

crested saguaro cactus

Homesteading and becoming a Reptile

The more time I spend in Arizona, the more I like it. It’s a fascinating state offering diversity and extremes.  The landscape ranges from stunning red rock country to unique hills filled with cactus to dense forests of tall pine trees.  In the morning, I can enjoy a cup of coffee in delightful 70 degree sunny weather in Phoenix and a couple of hours up the road I can go snow skiing in Flagstaff (that’s if I was into snow skiing).

Grand Canyon

Me at the south rim of the Grand Canyon 5/6/17

This kind of diversity can catch visitors by surprise and quite often does.  A few years ago, we visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon the first week of November.  The north rim had already closed for the season.  We were well prepared for whatever weather Mother Nature had in mind, and I was actually hoping for snow.  By mid October, all the campgrounds located outside of the national park are usually closed for the season.

Grand Canyon

south rim of the Grand Canyon – May 6, 2017

We set up camp at the only campground open year round offering hook ups; Trailer Village.  With the overnight temps expected to dip into the twenties, we connected the electric only.  The next morning as Al and I were ready to head on over to the rim for sightseeing, we chuckled as numerous RVer’s were struggling unsuccessfully with their water hose connections.  Yeah folks, when the overnight low hits 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect things like waterline’s to freeze up.

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus are only found in certain parts of Arizona

When we arrived at the visitor center, we glanced at a couple of tour buses that had just pulled up.  The moment the tourists disembarked in their summer attire, they were assaulted by the winter weather. We noticed the shock, disbelief and discomfort on their faces.  While Al and I stood there comfy in our winter garb, we wondered if anyone bothered enlightening these European tourists.

Several months ago, I made mention to a friend back in Illinois that Al and I decided to spend most of the year in the state of Arizona, including summer.  My friend questioned our logic and wondered why we would stick around Arizona in 110 degree weather.

And just like those tourists at the Grand Canyon, my friend had no clue about the elevation changes in this state.  Let’s face it, Illinois is pretty flat.  You want colder weather, you drive north.  You want warmer weather, you drive south.  Easy peasy, huh!  But it’s not so easy in the west.  It’s all about elevation and has nothing to do with north or south.

reptile, lizard

This lizard and I both like sunny warm weather. Does that make us both reptiles?

A little over a week ago, the temps in Phoenix were nearing that three digit mark.  That was our cue that it was time for us to head to the hills.  Our one hour plus drive took us from Phoenix’s elevation of 1,100 feet to Prescott Valley’s 5,200 feet, and the temperature dropped more than twenty degrees…. brrrr.  Al and I were cold.  Had our time in the valley of the sun turned us into reptiles?  Anything less than 70 degrees and we were donning sweatshirts!

Prescott RV Parks

Our home for the next few months!

Since we’ll be staying in Prescott Valley at least a couple of months, I decided to do a little homesteading and plant a garden.

I haven’t done any digging in the dirt since we went full-time in the RV four years ago. I purchased three planters, a bag of dirt, and a bunch of plants;  parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, chives, and tomatoes.

I think I’d be dating myself if I said I was humming a Simon and Garfunkel song while planting my garden ….

It felt wonderful to do a little gardening and even though I’ve never been the best gardener, I’ve always found the activity enjoyable.  That said, Al and our two children have made bets on how long I’ll be able to keep these plants alive. Who needs fantasy football when you can bet on mom and her green thumb or lack thereof 😄

RV gardens

me planting my garden

So our first week in Prescott was a busy and fun one which included a day trip to the Grand Canyon for a picnic lunch.  Fun planting my little garden.  Hiking at one of my favorite locations – Watson Lake.  And trying to stay warm as a cold front accompanied by a record rainfall blew through the area.

Watson Lake

I love hiking at Watson Lake

reflection Watson Lake

Reflections at Watson Lake

I have a few more entertaining things planned for the month of May.  Let’s hope Mother Nature is agreeable and she won’t make me bundle up …. even more!

SONGMICS 7 Piece Garden Tool Set Includes Garden Tote and 6 Hand Tools W/ Heavy Duty Cast-aluminum Heads Ergonomic Handles UGGB31L

Color of Spring in the Desert

Thanks to the unusual and excessive rainfall this past winter in the desert southwest, the hills have come alive.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley so green, but it’s not just an abundance of green that has carpeted the land.

hiking in Phoenix

Superstition Mountain – Apache Junction, Arizona

Everywhere I look, I’m greeted with a delightful kaleidoscope of color. The wildflowers are on steroids this year and I’m loving the view.  Each bloom, bush, and tree is a wonderful sight to behold.

poppies

me photographing the wildflowers

desert wildflowers

The stunning display of wildflowers is an unexpected surprise to those visiting the desert for the first time.  The desert southwest is lush with vegetation and color and a far cry from the drab, barren brown most folks associate with a desert.

Phoenix hiking

Spring hiking in the desert is the best!

desert wildflowers

I always look forward to spring in Arizona, and couldn’t wait to share some of my favorite Phoenix valley spots with my daughter.   First up was hiking at the Superstition Mountain located on the far east side of the valley. This is my absolute favorite place to hike in Arizona.

Superstition Mountain

My daughter – it was a glorious morning to hit the trails.

March 2nd – Al and I managed to snag a lovely campsite in the overflow loop for a couple of nights of dry camping at Lost Dutchman State Park.  This is a popular state park and without a reservation, it’s difficult to nab a site with electric.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona

By camping at the base of the Superstition Mountains, I was able to hike multiple times throughout the day and photograph the beauty that surrounded me. Sharing this amazing scenery with my daughter was a special treat.

wildflowers

Fields of poppies blooming at the base of the Superstitions

If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix and looking for an entertaining way to spend a day, here’s a post I did a while back about the Apache Trail that you might find fun.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The desert provides the best skies

Who knew the desert could be so colorful?  ‘I know, I know’, she exclaimed with raised hand!  And once the wildflowers wither, it’ll be time for the cactus to bloom. The color of spring in the desert is a memorable and unique experience …. not to be missed.desert wildflowers

CMT 1 Pair – Anti Shock / Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles

Pinty 2L Hiking Backpack Hydration Pack with Water Bladder Cycling Climbing Camping Bag (Pink)

Rattled

I’ve always enjoyed walking, but I didn’t develop an interest in hiking until a road trip my daughter and I took back in 2007 to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to the almost four hour round trip hike with a 2,000 foot elevation gain up to Harney Peak, but Ashton had me convinced we could do it.

hiking in ArizonaIt turned out to be a fabulous hike – my knees may have disagreed, but  Ashton and I both agreed it was extremely enjoyable even though we arrived back at our vehicle tired and sore.

Although the hike challenged me, I found it invigorating.  It made me feel so alive.  I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, experiencing that kind of feeling, and couldn’t wait to plan our next hike.

I should probably mention that at the time, I was an out of shape workaholic carrying an extra twenty pounds more than I currently carry.  The day after the hike, my legs and feet hurt so much I had trouble walking, but I felt awesome.

Fast forward to today, hiking has become a regular part of my life.  Granted, I don’t embark on any epic all day hikes like some of my RVing pals (you know who you are 😉 ) but I thoroughly enjoy those one to three-hour hikes amongst beautiful scenery.wildflowers

This time of year is particularly pretty in the desert southwest with the trails lined with wildflowers.  The cactuses are budding and some are starting to bloom.  Up until two weeks ago, I could be found in the morning hiking three to four days a week for an hour or two somewhere in the Phoenix metro area.  There are so many fabulous parks in Phoenix to hike and explore that getting bored would be difficult.

desert flowersAnd then the weather started getting hot …. hotter than normal for this time of year, which required I get out on the trail a little earlier.  On that fateful morning two weeks ago, I knew I was running late, temps were already in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and I would need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for snakes.

I left the camera at home wanting to focus on exercise and not allow myself to get distracted.  Yeah, good luck on that!  I always carry my cell phone with me for emergency purposes and it just so happens it takes photographs, which works in a pinch.

I was clipping along, making good time on my morning hike.  In spite of the heat, I kept my pace quick all the while keeping my eyes peeled on the trail in front of me and scanning the vegetation from side to side.  I’m not freaked out by snakes, but I’m also not a fan of the slithery creatures.rattle snakeI was on a trail leading me back to the truck with maybe fifteen minutes left to go and that’s when the movement in the brush stopped me in my tracks.  Mr. rattle snake was coiled in strike position and his head was bobbing back and forth as if he was dancing.  His tongue was flickering while our eyes met.snakes

I stood there frozen for a split second then gently backed away.  Once I retreated, he slowly lowered himself and starting slithering first toward me (I walked backwards some more) and then toward the other side of the trail.snakes

I stopped a women and her dog from passing me.  She was grateful that I had seen the snake first or she might have walked right by it.  We watched the snake cross the trail and counted five rings on his rattle.

This was not my first snake sighting on a trail.  I almost stepped on a bull snake in southern Colorado.   He was crossing the trail and I wasn’t paying attention.  Fortunately, I looked down before stepping on him.  Although a little started initially, I continued on my hike without concern.desert hikingThis encounter with the rattle snake rattled me …. rattled me to my core…. to the point it took me nearly ten days just to get out on the trail again.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy that hike.  I’m afraid I’ve turned into a nervous hiker, but am hopeful in time my fears will ease.

All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 5, and thus, not the best quality.  From now on, I won’t leave home without my Sony DSCWX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black) Since this was my first rattle snake encounter in the wild, I wish I had gotten better photos of the snake, especially considering its my goal not to come face to face with another snake!desert hiking

Asian shrimp

 

Less time on the trails, means more time in the kitchen…… much to Al’s delight.  Click here for my Lemon Shrimp recipe.

Computer Woes!

Change is an interesting subject.  Most times I embrace change whole heartedly.   That shouldn’t be a surprise considering a mobile lifestyle is all about change.  But then there are times or situations that I resist change as much as possible.

Sunset over Lake Pleasant

Sunset over Lake Pleasant

I was resisting the thought of getting a new computer and learning Windows 10.  Just thinking about it had me walking, rather running, in another direction.  The mere thought of dealing with technology change almost had me breaking out in hives.  If there was a word depicting the opposite of Geek, that would describe me to a tee.  I am definitely not a techie.  With that said, the past month I chose to play ostrich and avoid the subject by leaving the computer off.  I must admit, the break from the internet allowed me to complete a bunch of projects around the RV as well as get in a fair amount of hiking.

flowers and beeI knew months ago my laptop was slowly doing a death dance, but I loved the old gal.  She and I got along famously for years and I wasn’t interested in changing things up.  She loyally cared for my thousands of digital photos, put out hundreds of blog posts, and supported all my documents.

Her keys were worn to the point that half the letters were no longer legible making it impossible for Al to use my laptop (he’s never managed to memorize the keyboard and still pecks away at the keys 😆 ).  She sported a huge crack along one side that seemed to be growing and her screen was no longer firmly attached, but we were a comfortable fit.

Day in and day out, she’d sit on my lap providing endless hours of entertainment. Perhaps too many hours.ButterflyI had no intention of replacing her.  Quite frankly, I didn’t want a new computer, but after months of babying her and refreshing her to factory status, she just wasn’t up to the task at hand.  She was tired and wearing out, and when I could no longer upload my wildflowersphotos, I had to embrace the thought that change was necessary.  Plus, I was missing you guys!

I shopped, then shopped some more. I’m usually a very decisive shopper, but not this time.  Google became my best friend enlightening me on the differences between Intel’s i3, i5, and i7 processors.  A Mac was out of the question.  First, it wasn’t within my budget, and second I felt that would be too much of a change.  Although last year’s change from an Android to an iPhone was ezzie peezie and I love my iPhone 5, I just wasn’t going to go from a PC to a Mac at this point and time.

Cowboy mounted shooting

navigating obstacles can be fun!

It’s been a week and my new HP Pavilion laptop and I are getting along swell.  Windows 10 wasn’t the navigation nightmare I thought it might be.  Yes, it’s different, and yes, the first few days I was Googling “how to” a lot, but I haven’t broken out in sweats or hives due to the change.  I’ve even been having fun setting the new computer up.

We’re still closely monitoring our data usage considering we almost maxed out our 30 gigs last month and I was hardly on the internet.  Apparently, Al’s computer and my old computer had programs running in the background that were gobbling up data.  Thus, my internet presence was throttled severely.  I’m hoping to be back blogging soon and am starting to catch up on all your latest posts.  I’m still a little slow with the new gal, but the more time we spend together, the more familiar we’ll get and I’ll soon be sharing plenty of photos of the desert blooming.  You’ve been warned!

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

For those of you curious, this is the laptop I ended up getting….
HP Pavilion 15t 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (6th Gen Intel Core i5-6200u Processor, 8GB DDR3L RAM, 1TB HDD, Windows 10), Natural Silver

A Season of Blooms

We arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, just in time to watch the desert come alive.  I don’t think there’s a better time to visit the Valley of the Sun, aka Phoenix, than in late winter, early spring when the desert is dressed in all her finery.Superstition Mountain

What I would refer to as spring around here, begins a little earlier in the desert southwest than in other parts of the country.  Having lived in places like northern Illinois and southern Colorado, I would never refer to February as spring, but around flowering desertthe Phoenix valley, signs of spring are visible everywhere by mid February.

Trails and roads are usually lined with clusters of yellow flowers, courtesy of the brittlebush.

Flowers equal spring in my book and thus the season for blooms…. blooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  While I hit the hiking trails, I allow my eyes to look and discover the finer details of the blooming desert…. the little things.  I’m rarely disappointed.

After taking in the vast landscape, I narrow my focus discovering the little details

After taking in the vast landscape, I narrow my focus and discover little hidden surprises

desert flowers

Prickly pearAmongst the sharp cactus thorns grow delicate flowers.  The variety of foliage is an interesting collaboration of opposites; small, fine, delicate plants grow in harmony with large, hearty, thorned cacti.

Not wanting to be outdone by the other plants, the cacti produce their own flowers providing a profusion of colorful blooms dotting the landscape.

As many times as I’ve witnessed the extraordinary beauty of the desert, her extremes continue to amaze me.cactus

It’s not just the flora that’s intriguing…. it’s also the birds and animals that survive in this harsh land of extremes that are fascinating to observe.  Watching the relationship between flora and fauna in the Sonoran Desert during the blooming season is like watching a fine ballet …. beauty and drama are in abundance.

silhouette of an ocotillo cactus, but let's take a closer look at the bush lower right...

silhouette of an ocotillo cactus…. let’s take a closer look at the bush in the foreground…

I love the small delicate blooms

I love the small delicate blooms on this bush

The ocotillo cactus is one of my favorites. The leaves and flowers seem soft and delicate yet the thorns and sturdy bark make it one strong desert survivor. The ocotillo provides an excellent perch for birds and the orange flowers are very distinct.ocotilloocotillo

 

 

 

 

 

ocotillo

I truly enjoy this time of year in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.  I’ll be spending the next six weeks immersing myself in her gorgeous and abundant flora.  In closing, I leave you with a photo of a Fairy Duster.Fairy Duster

BTW… most of the photos in this post were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom – BlackSince it’s no longer in production, the price has been severely reduced.  So much so, I bought a back-up 🙂

The Good, and the not so Good

Tortilla Flat Hubby and I have settled into life here in Phoenix, Arizona, nicely.  Our first month back in the Valley of the Sun whizzed by…. enjoying exploratory outings with our daughter, socializing with neighbors, and connecting with friends, old and new.

The good:  We see our son and daughter every weekend when they stop by the RV and allow me to make them breakfast.  I’ve been having a grand ole time taking it up a notch in the kitchen and everyone is appreciative of my efforts.  Although the constant photographing of food is something they’d like me to tone down a tad 😉Breakfast

I had a blast spending the first two weeks in October with our daughter, Ashton, getting her acclimated to her new home.  I was eager to show her as much of the area’s unique beauty before she had to start her new job.

One of my favorite places around Phoenix can be seen in the far southeast side of the valley; the Superstition Mountains and the Apache Trail.  In my opinion, no visit to Phoenix would be complete without a visit to this area.

approaching the Superstition Mountains

approaching the Superstition Mountains

After a one hour drive from our RV Park in the northwest part of the valley to the Superstitions in the southeast valley, we took a quick spin through the Lost Dutchman State Park so I could point out the awesome hiking trails…… trails that I plan to tackle soon.  I wanted Ashton to be as excited about hiking here as I always am.

Canyon LakeFrom Lost Dutchman State Park we continued on the Apache Trail (aka 88) along a paved, winding road.  Ashton was happy to see a road that could be compared to similar roads in Colorado; you know…. the kind that climb, turn, and have drop offs with no guard rails.  She was feeling quite comfortable and not concerned even after passing a tow truck winching a vehicle up from the canyon below.  Eek, someone obviously had a bad day.  Good idea to take this road slow.

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

Fourteen miles north of the town of Apache Junction is picturesque Canyon Lake.  Ashton and I have already discussed renting a couple of kayaks and getting out on the water one of these days, and I know our friends, G & T, would love to join us.

Just a little further up the road is the quaint tourist attraction, Tortilla Flat.  We grab a bite to eat in the rustic restaurant and after lunch we stop in the general store for ice cream and fudge.  They are known for serving up the best ice cream around….yum.  Don’t pass it up!

With tummies full, we continued our drive toward a scenic overlook.  The pavement ends and we stir up a huge cloud of dust as we travel on a dry gravel/dirt road.  Ashton isn’t sure how she feels about the landscape and thinks it’ll take some time for her to get used to it.

Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest

When I tell her we are in the Tonto National Forest, she scoffs and with a smirk says, “I’m sorry, but this is not a forest”.

Say what? Don't be dissing my forest.

Say what? Don’t be dissing my forest.

The desert can be an acquired taste, especially for those more accustomed to a lush landscape like that found in the Midwest or Pacific Northwest.  Some folks never adjust, but I know Ashton will eventually come around and embrace the stunning beauty observed in the desert, just as I have.Tortilla Flat

What’s interesting; when we were back in the Midwest this past summer, the dense vegetation started irritating hubby and me.  We had no vistas.  Way too many trees.  We even had a tree damage one of our sky lights, which we’ll be replacing soon.  Although I must admit, Al did a fabulous job using white duct tape to fix up the crack.  It doesn’t even look patched.  Yep, I don’t miss having trees around.Tonto National ForestI have lots more good to share in upcoming posts, but for now, let’s get onto the not so good.

Birds#1 – I’ve been fighting a nasty cold that has put me in a foul mood.  An unsociable mood.  I’ve been sick way too much this past year, and it’s curtailing my fun.  Talk about frustrating!

#2 – And to add insult to injury, my internet connection is sporadic putting a crimp in my blogosphere habit.  I haven’t been able to post or comment as usual and in some cases I can’t even hit the “like” button.  Double frustrating.

Oh well, this too shall pass…. after all, tomorrow is another day!

Welcome to Our Campsite Where Friends & Marshmallows Get Toasted At The Same Time Camping Sign Plaque 5″X10″
LEGO City Great Vehicles 60057 Camper Van