Friday, March 24, 2017

March Madness

For most folks, March Madness refers to college basketball.  Here in Quartzsite, it refers to line dancing.  Yep, all our dance lessons culminate into one big annual dance party.  Over 100 men, women, and even some teenagers (not to mention this stuffed rat), from beginners to dance instructors, hailing from Quartzsite, Parker, Blythe, Salome, Brenda, and  as far as Sun City and Ajo, converged recently at the QIA for a full day of dancing, food, and camaraderie.

Before arriving at Quartzsite three seasons ago, I always thought line dancing accompanied only country western music.  Au contraire, mon frère.  Turns out most line dances are adaptable to all genre of music.  From ballads, to sock hop 50s, to Cruisin’ 60s, to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, there’s a line dance for that!

Our thanks to Vernine and Maggie, the kindest, most patient, nurturing, fun-loving dance instructors around!  They are miracle workers who can make chicken sh** look like chicken salad!

We danced our little hearts out, and had a blast doing it.  We thoroughly enjoyed sharing the fun-filled day with our Quartzsite dance class members, and were enthralled with watching the gracefulness, poise, and talents of the more advanced dancers from other areas.

Dad and yours truly Boot Scoot Boogying!

Our Level 1 Dance Classmates

Some of Level II Class of 2017

Tabby, too, experienced some March madness, although nothing to do with dance.  Her madness was directed at my folks for hauling her to the veterinarian for an ever-dreaded exam and rabies vaccination.  Unfortunately, the closest veterinarian office (in Blythe) informed Mom their appointment schedule was booking at 4 weeks out, which was beyond when Tabby’s prior vaccine expired.  So, after seeking reviews of alternate veterinarians, Mom made an appointment at Novak Animal Care in Lake Havasu.  Insult upon injury for Tabby.  Not only was she perturbed about going to the vet, now she had to travel 1.5 hours each way to get there!  So not fair.

Of course, once she arrived, she was a little angel of mercy and very well behaved—nothing like my Cousin Bailey, whose veterinarian has to either sedate her or put a towel over her head to avoid being torn to shreds (Yes, my Aunt Laurie has a devil cat on her hands)!  Mom, quite satisfied with the caliber of services and reasonable charges, was glad she brought Tabby to Novak’s, and highly recommends them.  Obviously, Tabby did not share the sentiment.  

At least we all enjoyed viewing the cool, crisp waters and magnificent sunset along the Colorado River.

More madness came our way, this time in the form of an 
unexpected visitor.  Three seasons we have actively searched with no success, peaking into holes and burrows as we hike in various parts of the desert, hoping to see a slithering snake.  So just imagine our surprise to find one right outside our door!   Dad had his head in the storage box working on the generators, I was in the kitchen making myself a cheese sandwich for lunch, and Mom was finishing up her weekly phone call with Aunt Maureen while putting stuff away in the rig’s outside storage compartment.  Suddenly, she’s screaming uncontrollably, running up and down the rig stairs.  There’s a rattling snake!  Cool!  Fortunately for Mom, he was on our gray outdoor carpet, so he was easy to see.  When he moved an inch or two to the side, he blended right in with the earth and rocks.  Once Mom gained her composure, she found watching this sidewinder as cool as Dad and I did, albeit from a safe distance.  I'll be adding some videos to my youtube station this weekend, so you can check them out as well.

Sidewinder sitting on our gray carpet

He's moved off the carpet and blends in nicely with the earth and rocks!

March has brought some crazy weather.  We had almost a week of 90+ temps.  Then a thunderstorm blew through Wednesday evening, leaving us with a magnificent sunset, colorful rainbows, and much more comfortable and cooler daytime temps of mid 70s.

We have been blessed with beautiful sunrises as well. Wednesday's was so spectacular, Dad ran outside in his Tidy Whities to snap a photo, reminiscent of "Walter White" (played by Bryan Cranston) in the very first episode of "Breaking Bad", complete with RV parked in the desert and camera in hand.

The Sunrise from our "Back Yard"

Like basketball's March Madness, we, too, are headed to the finals on April 1--it will be our last morning here at Quartzsite.

Well, I've got to run.  So much to do before we leave.  Speak to you soon!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Drivers, Start Your Engines at the Camping World 500 Nascar Cup Race!

My parents, in their infinite wisdom, decided the best way to spend a sweltering 92 degree Sunday was viewing Turn 4 at Phoenix International Raceway for the Camping World 500 Nascar Cup Race.   Another trip that required us to arise before dawn and do a 2+ hour drive.  While I’m not really a “morning person” (I’m more nocturnal like my Mom), hitting the road early allowed me to view another spectacular sunrise.

I know you must be wondering why in the name of Swiss cheese would we leave so early when the race doesn’t start until 12:30 p.m.?  The answer, my friends, is crazy Nascar fans.  Yep, by the time we arrived at 8 a.m., the first free parking lot was nearly filled, the beers were already being guzzled, the brats were already being barbecued, and the bean bag (a.k.a. cornhole) tournaments were already underway.  Although I have attended truck races and NHRA drag races, this was my first Nascar race, so I didn’t realize the extent of the tailgating extravaganzas!  I sure learned fast.  These people transport stereos, tents, picnic tables, coolers, and grills (not the small table top or hibachi types, but the big-ass, multi-racked, huge surface grills complete with Nascar branding irons!).

After socializing with neighbors in the parking lot (they even let me play a round of cornhole), we headed over to Zoomtown, about a mile away, where they had all sorts of promotional and marketing activities going on.  For example, Camping World had a mini RV Show.  Chick-fil-A had mini stuffed toy cows and calendar give-a-ways.  I won a gift card for a free breakfast sandwich and got my picture taken with the giant Chick-fil-A blowup cow!   

Me and the Chick-Fil-A BlowUp

After renting our cushioned back “chairs”, we headed to our bleacher seats on Turn 4.   I noticed concessions at Nascar were cheaper than at the Spring Training game we attended recently.  For example, foot long hot dogs were only $10 here (instead of $12), mixed cocktails only $9 (instead of game day’s $12).  I also observed that EVERYONE has tattoos!  Doesn’t matter age, ethnicity, gender, occupation, or social standing, almost everyone I looked at had at least one tat (most had multiple).  It is amazing how mainstream they have become.  I think it’s about time I get one, too.  I’ll run that by my folks and let you know how my plan for a Rat Tat works out.

The opening ceremonies started at 11:45 a.m., and I got to see all the top drivers ride by in Chevy trucks.  We stood for the invocation and a beautiful trumpet rendition of our National Anthem, followed by fireworks, and a flyover by two F-35s out of Luke Air Force Base.  Cool stuff. 

Drivers, start your engines!  Holy cow, the noise level was deafening, even with our ear protection!  Carole King sang, “I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down”.  While I don’t think she was referring to Nascar, the description surely fits.  My whole body reverberated every time the cars roared around the turn.  They call this the Camping World 500, but because it is a short track (only 1 mile long), the 500 refers to kilometers.

The view at Turn 4, which includes "The Hill" seating section.  People hauled those tents, chairs, and coolers from the free parking areas a mile or two away

Despite the sweltering heat, the place was packed!

Normally, I find Nascar a bit anti-climatic because everything before the last lap doesn’t matter.  I guess I’m not the only one to feel this way, since Nascar actually changed its format for 2017.   It now has multiple “stages” wherein championship points are awarded each stage, making it more competitive for drivers and more exciting for fans.     

I love Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but I also have a soft spot for Martin Truex, Jr., since he hails from New Jersey.  

Me with my favorite car and driver!

Unfortunately, neither Earnhardt or Truex finished within the top 10.  Ryan Newman actually came from behind, stealing the checkered flag from Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Chase Elliott, who were in the top positions for most of the race.  And Busch’s repetitive response to reporters (who asked him not once, but 4 times about his relationship with Joey Logano) that “everything’s great” held true--no fights between the two drivers at this race!

Well, I’m tuckered out.  It’s been a long day.  Dad’s putting the generators on so Tabby and I can have air conditioning for a fitful night’s sleep again.  Talk to you soon!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Visiting Anza-Borrego Desert Park and the Sultan Sea Recreation Area in CA

The greater amounts of rain and cooler temperatures in these desert lands provided the perfect recipe for producing a banner year for wildflowers!  So we journeyed to Borrego Springs, CA to see the first “super bloom” Anza-Borrego Desert Park has experienced in decades.

It’s about a three-hour trip from our camping area in Q, so we got a VERY early start at 5 a.m.  As we traveled, I could see snow still covered the mountaintops outside Coachella.  Continuing on, groves of palm and citrus trees dotted the landscape, and the fragrance of citrus tickled my nose!  

We stopped at Saltan Sea Beach for some photo ops of the Saltan Sea.  The “town”, which consists of under 500 people and only about a ½ dozen dead-end streets, is a bit scary, with lots of graffiti and burned out abandoned buildings.  Mom and I snapped a few pics, inhaled a few whiffs of the salty air, and high-tailed it back to the truck.

We entered Anza-Borrego Desert Park from County Roads S2 and S22, portions of which are very poorly maintained.  Guess they strive for the roads to fit in with the surrounding badlands.  Fortunately, as we traveled on, the road conditions improved and so did the scenery, now sporting vegetation.  We learn there are tons of boondocking opportunities here, even for big rigs!  As California’s largest State Park, Anza-Borrego encompasses nearly 600,000 acres, of which 400,000 are back country and wild.  Needless to say, we saw only a glimpse of all it has to offer.  We met up with wonderful friends from Amazon, Rick and Janice, at the Visitor Center.  We began our park exploration by hiking three trails in the immediate area of the Visitor Center:  the All-access Nature Trail, the Campground Trail, and the Panoramic Overlook Trail.  The flowers were so gorgeous, hugging the creosotes, cacti, and other bushes like landscaped flower beds!

The real treat was seeing the “Sunflower Fields”.  Now bear in mind, they are not the tall, big-headed sunflowers we had in our backyard garden in NJ with the seeds that the squirrels and birds loved.  However, these smaller yellow wildflowers just made me beam with happiness!    The blooms were just prolific, dotting the desert floor like a yellow carpet!  I felt just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz when she gazed upon Emerald City for the first time!  Just breathtaking.  A prime example of The Creator's handiwork. The color scheme of the sunflowers, combined with lilies and other flora of white and purple hues, just exuded “Easter”.  How I yearned to pick a basket of flowers to make Mom a bonnet!  But I followed the directive of the Park Service, “leave only footprints, take only memories”.   Borrego is the Spanish translation for “big horn sheep”. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the 60 who supposedly reside in the Park.

We viewed the sculptures of Ricardo Breceda, whose metal art of insects, camels, elephants, dinosaurs, and even the Loch Ness monster, are so detailed in physical attributes and emotion that they appear likelike!  Big Boomer looked like a Volkswagon Beetle compared to the size of the scorpion/spider sculptures.

These creatures were so lifelike in size and detail, I was hiding behind Big Boomer for fear they would eat me!

The emotional and physical agony this creature is experiencing is felt by all who view it.

We head into Borrego Springs, a quaint, art-centric little hub, with Christmas Circle Park in the center of town—literally.  Located in a traffic roundabout, it is a favorite spot for folks to chill, lounge on blankets, sunbathe, or enjoy an iced tea in the shade.  The town hosts only about ½ dozen restaurants/cafes, and they were all bustling from the inordinate number of weekday visitors.  We decided on Carlee’s, which has something for everyone’s taste.  Unfortunately, the wait time was over an hour.  A Borrego Springs native recommended the Red Ocotillo Café as an alternative.  With just a 20 minute wait time, we said what the heck.  The Café is small, with shabby chic décor and unassuming exterior, not to mention no indoor bathrooms (portables outside).  Needless to say, we didn’t expect much.  But we were all pleasantly surprised with the food and the service.  Dad’s Cobb salad was a “hefty man's portion” packed with chicken, avocado, and blue cheese (good thing Janice chose the ½ size serving).  Mom and I had the French dip sandwich, with medium rare beef (just the way we like it) on a sourdough roll and a side of mixed greens tossed with tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and Kalamata olives.  Rick was was quite satisfied with the taste and size of his Reuben as well.  Our server Sherry did an outstanding job, in spite of how busy she was.

My French Dip platter

Time to part ways with the Binns.  We wished them well on their upcoming trek north to Alaska (I asked if I could stow away in their storage compartment, but they declined politely).

We headed to the California 111 for the Sultan Sea Recreation Area.  The 111 takes you through farmlands with cattle and crops.  The odor of manure hung in the air and stung my nostrils.  Luckily the irrigated farms were a favorite hangout of assorted waterfowl, making the stench a minor annoyance to witnessing such a wonderful sight.     

We opted to stay on the 111 to visit various locations of the Sultan Sea Recreation Area to evaluate boondocking opportunities, foregoing a visit to The Slabs outside Niland (especially after seeing what Sultan Sea Beach looked like.)  For those of you unfamiliar, The Slabs or Slab City refers to the concrete building pads that are the remains of Marine Corp Training Camp Dunlap, built in 1942 and dismantled in 1956.  Slab City is a haven for squatters and nontraditional snowbirds. Inhabitants tend to be unconventional, minimalistic, artsy types (a visit to East Jesus or Salvation Mountain will attest to this), reminiscent of hippies with Scooby Doo vans.   They take “living off the grid” to the extreme, and are even quirkier than my own parents (who qualify as pretty weird for  traveling in their house on wheels with goldfish, a cat, and me, a stuffed rat who writes a blog!)

Views of the Sultan Sea along California 111

We passed the International Banana Museum, which bills itself the “most aPEELing destination on the planet.”  Apparently, it is everything bananas.    From harmonicas, pillows, ceramics—everything resembles a banana.  Most appealing to me is that it has a banana bar:  Splits, shakes, and smoothies.  I was drooling just reading about it.  I convinced Mom and Dad to let me visit, only to find it was closed.  Talk about disappointment.  They promised me we would visit next year.  PLEASE hound them for me so they actually do it.  I’ll just go bananas if I don’t get to the Banana Museum.

We arrived home to one hot and bothered Tabby.  Dad indulged her with running the air conditioner for several hours.

Oh well, time for me to say goodbye for now.  Speak to you again soon!