Winter 2016 Adventure – Big Bend National Park or Bust Part Three

On our way out of town on February 24, 2016, we fueled up at the Shell gas station in Gila Bend. While Jon filled up the tank, I snapped a few photos of these fierce-looking dinosaurs.

I’m bigger than you, so keep on walking

We settled in at Butterfield RV Resort in Benson, Arizona. With a fierce wind forecast, their asphalt roads and pads drew us in. What we weren’t aware of was the railroad tracks only a block away. Because there are several streets the train must cross in town, we heard the whistle tooting softly off in the distance, and then blasting outside our door, before fading out again, repeatedly throughout the night.

The rest of the resort is quite nice, and they even have an observatory on site. The observatory was closed due to the wind on this trip. With park models and plenty of RV sites, the resort is a favorite destination for winter visitors.

Benson, Arizona, sprouted from the desert in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad selected the site to cross the San Pedro River. The town boasts a population of approximately 5,000. With a Safeway, Walmart, and Tractor Supply store, what more could an RVer want?

A twenty-minute drive took us to the Kartchner Caverns State Park. A strict policy to protect the bats living in the cave prevents patrons from bringing in purses, backpacks, or bags of any kind and no photography (thus no photos) or video equipment allowed. Food and drinks, even bottled water, are also banned. They request visitors to stow their belongings in the cars and provide lockers if needed. Caves we have been to in the past are always cold. Not so at Kartchner, where the inside temperature is warm and humid.

The next day we drove to Patagonia, Arizona, and then circled back to Tombstone before heading back to Benson. Founded in 1898, Patagonia incorporated fifty years later in 1948.

Visitor Center has brochures and things to do

The estimated population today is under 1,000 residents. The city draws in their share of tourists each. They come to spend time at the Tucson Audubon Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds and the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Wildlife Preserve. Other tourist activities include hiking the Arizona Trail, camping and boating at the Patagonia State Park, or shopping and eating in the downtown area.

Come on, let’s shop

We only had time to cruise around the little downtown area and wander in and out of the stores. There wasn’t much activity during our visit, which is fine with us. We like having a place to ourselves.

Look, a restaurant. Let’s eat lunch.

Tombstone, Arizona, is a historic town founded in 1877. It is best known for the OK Corral gunfight on October 26, 1881, with Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers (Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan) pitted against the Clanton-McLaury gang. The lawmen against the cowboys, or you might say, the Republicans against the Democrats.

Gift shops, saloons, and restaurants line three blocks of shaded boardwalks.

For a small fee, visitors are treated to a reenactment of the conflict. I had to drag Jon along to see the show. He’s not impressed with what he calls a “tourist trap” although I thought it was fun. The actors have to eat and put a roof over their heads like everyone else.

Me with Doc Holliday and the Earp boys

We learned that the actual shootout occurred in a vacant lot owned by C. S. Fly, a famous photographer. The lawmen won the battle that famous day, killing Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton, all of whom are buried in the town’s Boothill Graveyard a few miles from the historic part of town.

Mannequins depict the location of the participants as recorded by Wyatt Earp. They’re so close together it’s no wonder three men were killed.

No social distancing for these guys.
Talk about curling toes; these men need a fresh pair of boots

The Schieffelin Hall opened on June 8, 1881. Schieffelin was a surveyor who happened upon a vein of silver ore and subsequently formed the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company with a partner and investors.

It looked like Schieffelin Hall had a recent facelift

Reprints of the Tombstone Epitaph with original reports of the gunfight are available at the newspaper office and museum with the ticket from the gunfight show. John Philip Clum started the newspaper on May 1, 1880. He arrived in Tombstone five months earlier from the East, bringing with him experience as a meteorologist, Apache agent, lawyer, and newspaperman. In 1881, town folks elected Clum mayor. He also served as the postmaster and was the head of the local vigilance committee. For the past 135 years, the newspaper has reported on the people, events, and places of the old west. A subscription today costs only $25.00 a year.

Tombstone Epitaph

During its eight-year heyday, the Bird Cage Theatre earned its reputation as the wildest, wickedest night spot between New Orleans and San Francisco. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the building contains over one hundred and forty bullet holes, and a legend says twenty-six people lost their lives there. Hmmm, I wonder if the Tombstone Epitaph has information that will confirm or dispel the legend.

The haunted Bird Cage Theatre

Gone are the cowboys and prostitutes. Visitors now buy tickets at $25.00 a piece to take a ghost tour of the building and possibly encounter an apparition or two or three.

Hotel and Mercantile
The Crystal Palace

That concludes our time in Benson, Arizona. Next up, we make a quick stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico, before continuing into Texas.

Stay Safe

Winter 2016 Adventure – Big Bend National Park or Bust Part Two

On February 19, 2016, we continued our Winter 2016 tour toward Big Bend National Park, stopping at the Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona, for a few days of poking around. We liked the extra roomy spaces with plenty of room for multiple vehicles. The park was fairly quiet with only a negligible amount of road noise and the soft rumble of trains off in the distance. The friendly neighbors, who had wintered at the park for years, were a bonus. They gave us ideas for things to do.

Hard to beat an Arizona sunset

In need of restocking our pantry and refrigerator, we inquired at the office to find out the best place to shop. The town of Gila Bend once had a regular grocery store, but it had closed. Our choices were the Family Dollar that had a small supply of food or the Mercado De Amigos Carniceria that had mostly meat.

The Butcher & the Farmer in Buckeye, Arizona

Had we known, we would have stopped in Buckeye at the Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace a half-hour north before we arrived. Our grocery shopping curtailed the amount of sightseeing, so we picked a drive to Organ Pipe National Monument and a quick ride to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Seventy-six miles south on SR 85 from Gila Bend led us to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. It was well worth the trip to see the Organ Pipe National Monument, and we were glad we had packed lunch because there was no food near the monument.

Our lunch spot along the Ajo Mountain Drive

This, our first visit, introduced us to the east side of the park and the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive, which made us fall in love with the area.

Sorry little squirrel, you need to find your own food.
The rock formation reminded us of a dinosaur head

The well-graded gravel road took us through forests of organ pipe cactus, saguaros, and ocotillo.

Organ pipe cactus and saguaros
The organ pipes get huge
Jon taking photos
Not many saguaros with arms in this area

About halfway around the one-way loop road, we stopped at Arch Canyon where visitors can take an easy 1.2-mile round-trip walk into a canyon.

Arch Canyon Trail

Aptly named, the canyon contains several arches, which are difficult to see depending on where the sun shines.

We almost missed the bridge in the bottom third of the photo.

A sign warned the steep hill was a dangerous climb. I went up a little way and carefully scrambled down before I landed on my bottom.

Careful on the slippery rock
Chain cholla
Jumping cholla
Prickly pear
Crested organ pipe cactus
Ocotillo bloom

Interested in learning more about the monument? We’ve stayed in the Twin Peaks campground a couple times since our first visit and have posted descriptions and pictures here and here.

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

It is about a 30-minute drive east of Gila Bend to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and Campground. Visitors will find hundreds of petroglyphs on the jumble of rocks at this ancient archaeological site. There is no potable water at the campground, so plan accordingly when visiting.

Bring your own water, there is none around here

Jon and I took the path to the right around the cluster of rocks and boulders, searching for the petroglyphs. We didn’t see much until we had walked halfway around. I’m glad we took the route we did because when I saw so many petroglyphs, I wasn’t sure where to look. If we only knew the meaning of the etchings, we could learn so much about the culture that lived there thousands of years ago.

Split rock
Travelers from the 1800s left their marks beside the ancient ones
So many petroglyphs

Jon called me over, “Hey, look at this.” I had never seen a lizard so beefy and long before. I didn’t want to get too close.

Common chuckwallas are rock dwellers
There must be a story in there somewhere
Desert Sunflower

That ends our time in Gila Bend, Arizona. We next make brief stops in Benson, Arizona; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Fort Davis, Texas. Big Bend National Park will come up soon.

Stay safe

Woo-hoo! The Farmers’ Market is Back

Woo-hoo! Pleasanton’s year-round Farmers’ Market opened May 9, 2020. We receive a delivery of vegetables and fruit every other week and supplement our fresh produce with quick trips to the market. But visiting the farmers’ market on Saturday was one of our weekly treats.

One thing I’ve been missing most is the fresh-popped kettle corn. When I heard the news, I planned all week how to keep myself safe. Blue skies and temps in the low 60s made it a perfect day for being outside. I left the house early to arrive before nine, the designated time for oldsters to shop.

Stella loved kettle corn when she came to visit

I pulled on my gloves and face covering, slipped my camera strap around my neck, and crossed the street. Where vendors usually occupied both sides of the street like in the photo below . . .

Will we ever crowd in so close again?

on this Saturday they only covered one side. Instead of the vendors all squished together, there was plenty of space in between. This left plenty of room for lines to form and patrons to pass through. An X inside a circle marked the spot for people to stand while waiting for their turn to make a purchase. I looked to the west . . .

Looks so strange to see all the masks

and then to east but “Eat the Best Kettle Korn’s” blue, screened-in tent was nowhere in sight. They must be around the bend.

People look like they’re dressed to rob a bank

Everyone wore a mask as was the rule. Even the policeman standing watch modeled proper behavior.

The Officer Knight looked like a bandit too

A vendor commented on how strange it was not to offer samples. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do besides stand there and wait for customers. Customers aren’t allowed to pick up the food or squeeze or pinch it to test its ripeness. Do not touch until you buy it.

Oranges and squash all bagged up and ready to go

Usually, there’s a person or several playing music and singing songs. There was no such activity this Saturday. Nor did I smell the aroma of popping corn or hear the corn kernels being stirred around in the metal kettle.

I’ll take a 3-pack, please

I turned the corner where the vendor booths continued the length of the parking lot. My shoulders drooped when I reached the end and realized there’d be no kettle corn for me.

No kettle corn as far as the eye could see

I’ll have to wait a little longer to satisfy my craving for the sweet and salty popcorn. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my 3-pack of red heart strawberries and cartons of blueberries and cherries.

Fruit on a Plate

Although our governor loosened some COVID-19 restrictions this week for local areas that meet certain criteria, our county and the Bay Area do not meet the requirements. We must abide by the more restrictive orders. The only prohibitions the health department loosened this week was for construction, real estate transactions, and some outdoor businesses and activities so long as they follow social distancing protocols.

To the delight of local golfers, the Pleasanton Golf Center at the fairgrounds opened the gates.

Ah, the sound of golf balls being whacked by a club

The familiar thwack, thwack, thwack is back for those who dare, however chipping practice is off-limits temporarily.

No chipping practice for you

That concludes my wrap up of the goings on in Pleasanton. How are things working out in your neck of the world?

Stay Safe

Winter 2016 Adventure – Big Bend National Park or Bust Part One

Today we begin our look back on a trip we took before The Traveling Todd’s blog started. It was February 15, 2016, when we left our home in California with Big Bend National Park as our ultimate destination. Of course, we had to make several stops along the way before we arrived. I invite you to sit back and enjoy the first installment of our adventure. More will come in subsequent weeks.

We pulled into Desert Willows RV Park in Hesperia for our first night. While we contemplated the closed gate that greeted us, someone drove up and ta-da, the gate opened. Setting up in the dark is not something we usually do, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid in the middle of winter. In the morning the hills and mountains iced with snow surprised us, given that the past few days had been quite warm.

Wrightwood topped with snow

The next day we transitioned from Interstate 15 to Interstate 10 going east and made a stop at the General Patton Memorial Museum on Chiriaco Summit.

General Patton Memorial Museum

On November 11, 2018, the museum celebrated its 30th anniversary with the opening of a new exhibit called Chandi West Wing. I guess we’ll have to return someday to check out the displays that tell of Patton’s early years, the Great War, and World War II.

Remembrance walls

Most of the displays we saw were outdoors. They included the Remembrance Walls, the outdoor chapel, and vintage vehicles.

Outdoor chapel
Vintage vehicles all in a row

Jon was most interested in the tanks as he compared them to the ones he drove in Viet Nam.

Handsome hubby

Then on to Blythe, California, for a three-night stay at Riviera RV Resort and Marina where we snagged a spot overlooking the Colorado River.

Plenty of space at Riviera RV

That’s right; we hadn’t left the state yet. We had driven through Blythe before without stopping in the past and wanted to see the area. We’d also heard a lot about Quartzsite, Arizona. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.

Colorado river

Our poking around time came to a halt before it began the next day. Jon noticed a separation on the front right tire. We were thankful it didn’t blow out the previous day. A Goodyear store in Blythe was not a “true” Goodyear store and was no help. Our closest option was Yuma. The hour and a half drive there and back and the two hours waiting for the new tire took up most of the day.

It turned out there wasn’t much to interest us in Blythe. At least we got to spend some time in Quartzsite and the surrounding area the next day. While looking for the Bouse Fisherman (didn’t see it), a cholla attacked Jon’s pants and wouldn’t let go.

Never found this work of art
Steer clear of the cholla, they jump

We saw a naked man at a bookstore and bought a couple books from the old cowboy sitting out front. The naked man was Paul Winer, who passed away on May 7, 2019. He was the owner of Reader’s Oasis Books in Quartzsite and also known as Sweet Pie, a boogie-woogie piano musician. I was glad to see the bookstore is still open when I checked their page on the internet.

Who is that hiding in the shade?
See anything you can’t live without?

Another attraction in Quartzsite is the Hi Jolly Monument—built in 1934—that honors the first Arab Muslim immigrant to the US. He arrived in the states by invitation of the US military thanks to Jefferson Davis, secretary of war. Around 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War, Davis persuaded Congress to approve $30,000 for a US Camel Corps.

Hi Jolly Monument

Hadji Ali, nicknamed Hi Jolly, was the lead camel driver for the experiment to use camels in the dry western deserts. The plan failed because the camels caused Army’s burros, horses, and mules to panic, and Congress did not continue funding because of the American Civil war.

Quartzsite cemetary

Besides the nickname Hi Jolly, Ali had two official names over his lifetime. He gave up his given name, Philip Tedrow, when he converted to Islam and became Hadji Ali. He returned to Philip Tedrow when he married. In his later years, Ali eventually settled in Quartzsite where he was buried in the town’s cemetery in 1902.

We also drove around the desert and marveled at the saguaro along the road.

I see you
Framed by saguaros
Watch out, the Ocotillo have thorns

Next up we spend a few days in Gila Bend, Arizona, and visit Organ Pipe National Monument for the first time.

Stay Safe