Friday, March 31, 2017

LaPosa LTVAs – Alive with Beautiful Blooms, A Second Set of Snake Eyes, and Coyote Cries

Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I have learned that I don’t have to look much further than my own backyard to find true happiness, beauty, or my heart's desire.  Such is the case with my family's winter retreat in the Sonoran Desert at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) La Posa Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs).  Its thousands of acres offer panoramic views, varied terrains of hiking and ATV trails, and a wonderful window through which to watch flora and fauna.

Mom joins me regularly for a 5-7 mile hike within La Posa South (Dad only comes about half the time).  It’s our 2+ hour dose of spiritual fulfillment.  It is our time to reflect, to relish the solitude, and marvel in the wonders of nature.  And the desert never disappoints!  Each day we take a different trail and witness the desert coming alive.  Unlike our prior two winters here, the earthen ground is covered with a blanket of green grasses and white, purple, and yellow wildflowers.  

Multi-colored wildflowers outside our door

White button flowers and grasses dot the earth's floor

The blooms of the creosote and brittlebush just radiate sunshine.  The ocotillo transforms its bleak, brown, dormant branches to green-leaved arms boasting blazing red tubular buds.  The desert globemarrow offers a petite orange blossom.  And there are so many more landscape treasures for which this stuffed rat knows not their names.   But each day I speak to them, complimenting them on their beauty and thanking them for sharing their wonders with me. 



Close up of an Ocotillo bloom

Ball nipple cactus



First time I've seen blooms on a cholla cactus here in Q

Globemarrow with pretty, petite daisy-like flowers nearby


The insects, reptiles, and birds also keep us entertained, from lizards sunbathing on rocks, to ants busily collecting food for their colonies, to doves singing their love songs.  A recent hike during late afternoon along Trail 565 provided us several exciting adventures.  First, we spotted a hawk sitting on her nest built within the “elbow” of a saguaro cactus arm.  She was not happy that we were nearby.  So she called out to her mate, who immediately came to her aid to protect their home and soon-to-be babies.  Just a short distance away, a grove of mesquite trees offered shade to a threesome of turkey vultures.  Shortly thereafter we were given a warning hiss from a diamondback rattlesnake just a few feet off the trail.  Obviously, he saw us before we saw him.  Unlike Dad, who finds the need to take extended video, Mom and I just grabbed one quick pic and hurried on our way.

The diamondback snake we encountered

A close-up of Mr. Diamondback.  Then we speedily got out of its way.

Mama Hawk sitting on her nest in "elbow" of Saguaro

Mr. Hawk coming to protect her

Turkey vultures sitting in nearby grove of trees

The soulful cries of the coyotes have filled the nighttime air several times recently.  Mom and I saw their paw prints and poop specimens heading off a trail.  But we haven’t spotted them “in person” since we arrived in early January.

The desert can be unforgiving with its heat, wind, and dust.  Just yesterday we had sustaining winds of 50+ mph for the entire afternoon and into the evening.  (I thought I was back in the Poconos during Hurricane Sandy!)   Mom worked all morning to clean the rig, only to get a new layer of dust covering everything she just cleaned.  

But life is not Utopia--we must accept the good and the bad in everything.  For those of us willing to accept and tolerate these less appealing attributes of the desert, it rewards us greatly!   

Backyard Sunrise

Sunset in Dust Storm

We say goodbye to Quartzsite for another year, thankful to the great Creator for the riches and artful masterpieces he bestows on us each and every day during our seasonal visits.

We head to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon tomorrow, and expect much cooler temperatures and even a bit of snow.  We start work on Monday for the Grand Canyon Association.  We are excited to begin another chapter in our book of life on the road, exploring and experiencing more wonders of our great Country!

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

More Tours: General Patton Memorial Museum/Desert Training Center, Los Algodones, and Celia’s Rainbow Gardens

We took advantage of recent cooler temperatures to return to Los Algodones.  Mom purchased some  wrinkle cream (she can’t have enough of that!) and a safari hat for Dad like the one he bought there last year.  Then we focused on replacing Dad’s broken knockoff Rolex watch that he bought on the streets of New York City before we hit the full-timing road.  Mom, ever the great negotiator, got the price down from $85 to $26.  She would have held out for $20, but Dad said that would be too insulting to the shopkeeper.  Our business completed in Algodones, we headed back to Yuma to do some shopping.  We needed some clothes to comply with our dress code at Grand Canyon, and Mom wanted to stock up on groceries, since we will be 1.5 hours away from “civilization” during our Grand Canyon work gig.   (We don’t like to waste time off from work running errands—we’d rather be exploring)!   We shopped in Yuma almost 5 hours, but accomplished all our goals.  For being so well behaved, I was rewarded with a hearty meal at Golden Corral, a feast fit for a king.

We also visited the General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit, CA.  The museum is located at what was Camp Young within the Desert Training Center (DTC), where General George S. Patton and other leaders trained over a half million soldiers for battle against the Germans in North Africa.  The Desert Training Center encompassed 18,000 square miles of rugged, desolate lands within the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California and Arizona.  The area of the DTC was larger than the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined!  There were 12 divisional camps, including Camp Bouse, which we visited in 2015.  My maternal Grandpa served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, so I found this whole place very interesting.  We also learned there is boondocking right behind the Museum for a nominal fee (we think $1/night based on info on the Internet).  Pretty cool to have WW II tanks right in your “backyard”.

The remains of the Catholic chapel at Camp Young

"Trench Art" - Carvings/Sculptures on Artillery Shells

We went recently to Quartzsite’s Desert Tortoise Preserve.  Well, at least that’s what it is called on the Map of Quartzsite, (designed by Paul Winer) that we purchased.  The Preserve turned out to be a small caged area inside the Laze-E-Days RV Park.  Both the park and the preserve were in disrepair and obviously have seen some better days.  Long story short, I spotted only one tortoise, and his position behind a rock made it impossible to take a photo.  Another disappointing wildlife excursion.

Today we did our annual visit to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens.  Celia was the young daughter of Paul and Joanne Winer.  Born prematurely at only 23.5 weeks and weighing only 1.5 lbs., doctors had little hope for her survival.  But survive she did for 8 ½ years, until she succumbed to a viral infection that attacked her heart.  The Rainbow Gardens were borne out of her love for animals and the environment.  They are a testament to the dedication of her family to keep her memory alive and the true sense of community that support them in their mission.  Each time I visit, I walk away with a feeling of love and peace, and in my heart I know that’s exactly what Celia would have wanted.

Look at the size of this lizard who lives at Celia's Garden!

Well, the fun and games are over.  Our final days must be spent on chores.  Let the cleaning begin!

Talk to you soon.

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!