Benson and Bisbee AZ

Rain threatened while wind buffeted the truck and trailer as we made our way to Benson AZ on Friday, January 20. Fortunately, the rain waited for us to settle into our spot at Butterfield RV Resort and Observatory before the skies let loose a drenching. The rain continued through the night, and on and off the next day, sometimes spitting out hail. Butterfield, with its concrete pad sites and paved roads, was a good place to wait out the weather and catch up on clothes washing.

Last year when we stayed at Butterfield, their wifi did not work. This time my power cord had given out and my battery wasn’t going to last more than an hour or so. I didn’t hold out much hope for replacing the power cord in this rural town, but Keast’s Computer World had a cord that fit my power block. Hurrah! Thank you, Paul Keast, for getting me charged up and running again.

On Sunday, the weather cleared enough to do a little sightseeing in Bisbee AZ about an hour south from Benson. A visit to Bisbee is like going back in time as soon as you pop through the tunnel. Built in a canyon on hills and narrow streets with brick architecture dating from the early 1900s, modern day cars and trucks are out of place. Hand-carved and painted designs ornament the buildings in renaissance, neoclassical, gothic revival, Italianate, and Romanesque revival, some of which are restored to their beauty of an earlier time while others patiently await their transformation.

Street scenes of Bisbee.

Examples of medallions, some painted and some not yet restored.

The post office and Western Bank buildings are across the street from each other.

The old JC Penney store currently stands empty, other stores sport bright fresh colors, while others still need a little tender loving care.

Founded in 1880, the town serves as the county seat for the Cochise County and is a historic example of the old Southwest. Copper, gold, and silver attracted people to the area for mining opportunities and by 1910, the population rose to 9,019, but declined by 1950 to 6,000. Today, the population is estimated at 5,600.

Phelps Dodge Corporation stopped operations of its copper mine in 1975, mayor Chuck Eads and Phelps Dodge combined efforts to develop a mine tour and historic interpretation of a portion of the world-famous Copper Queen Mine to promote tourism as a base for the city’s economy. Thus, Bisbee moved from a mining town to a destination for tourists. For information on the Queen Mine Tour, click here.

After roaming in and out of galleries, an antique store, and a museum, we stopped in at Bisbee Olive Oil where we met Robert Kravitz, an avid rock and roll aficionado. Rock and roll music we remembered from our teens and early twenties played through the speakers, while we browsed through the shop sampling a few of the 60 flavors of olive oil, vinegar, and marinades. A visit to this store is worth the time just to see the framed album covers that decorate the red brick walls. Some of the covers were ones we owned once upon a time, and others were limited editions or U.S. banned covers with risqué themes. Don’t forget to taste the olive oil.

With more than 20 restaurants in town, it was difficult to decide where to have lunch. When in doubt, ask a local. Robert recommended Café Cornucopia and we couldn’t have been happier with our meal and the friendly service.

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Cafe Cornucopia

We stopped in at Optimo Hatworks where all the hats are handmade in the store or from suppliers. Have a hat that needs repair? Contact Optimo.

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Optimo Hatworks

St. Elmo has been in business since 1902, except for prohibition.

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St. Elmo Bar Since 1902

Bisbee is a place to throw off the effects of stress, stroll through town, partake in a beer or wine tasting, tour the Copper Queen Mine, take one of the Lavendar Jeep Tours, or just sit back, put your feet up, and rest.

With approximately 20 inns, hotels, and B & Bs, Bisbee has a bed to suit any type of traveler. Book a room at Audrey’s Inn, Bisbee Grand Hotel, Copper Queen Hotel, or check into The Shady Dell where you can sleep in a vintage aluminum trailer.

We will definitely visit Bisbee again if we make our way back to southern Arizona. On my to do list are the mine and jeep tours.

Next stop? Alpine TX after a night or two in Las Cruces.

Safe Travels.

Lake Havasu and Beyond

A visit with family and friends in Lake Havasu City AZ was the perfect place to kick-off our winter 2017 travel. With San Antonio TX selected as our ultimate destination, we only had to figure out which route to take and what we wanted to see on the way.

We selected Prospectors RV Resort as our home for four nights in Havasu. Prospectors offers paved streets, large graveled sites with room enough for off-road vehicles alongside the RVs, spotless bathrooms and all the amenities expected by the long-term winter visitor.

London Bridge is an icon in Havasu. The original bridge built in the 1830’s in London was dismantled and rebuilt in Havasu by Robert P. McCulloch as a tourist attraction for the town he founded in the mid-sixties. Today the city boasts a population of approximately 53,000. Havasu is a popular destination for RVers who live in colder climates (affectionately referred to as snowbirds), college students on spring break, and people who are passionate about watersports.

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As happened during the start of our spring and summer 2016 trips, truck trouble slapped us in the face when the check engine light illuminated. Visions of our two weeks stuck in Elko NV last summer came into view. The dealer got us in on Monday morning, and in the time it took us to eat breakfast at Rusty’s they had replaced a bad sensor, which was covered under warranty. Good thing we were back on the road so soon because Prospectors was booked solid and we would have had to leave whether we had a truck or not.

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Rusty’s Great Place for Breakfast

On January 17, we headed south on I95 and made a quick stop at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. Behind me on the hill is the Hillcrest Bay Development, which has fantastic views of the refuge.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was our planned stop for a few nights, but when we neared Gila Bend, we opted to stay the night at the Gila Bend KOA. We didn’t want to arrive too late at the monument’s campground since the spots are first-come-first-served. We had stayed at the KOA last year and were pleased to see that they continued with their improvements by putting in a pool, a patio behind the activity building, tent sites, and soon to arrive a new building to house restrooms and showers.

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Abandoned Building Near Gila Bend KOA

The next morning the campsites that greeted us at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Alpine Campground included wide long spots with plenty of natural habitat between them giving us the feeling that we were camping in the wild. An added bonus was that we had no neighbors beside us or across the road.

We ate lunch after our quick set up (no water, electrical or sewer hookups to worry about), and took the 1.3-mile trail to the visitors center where border patrol folks gave a talk on their responsibilities. The monument’s property extends to the border with Mexico and the visitor’s center is about five miles from the nearest crossing.

Besides the checkpoints on major highways, the border agents grade roads and paths that illegal immigrants and drug runners cross to identify locations where recent activity has occurred. They also use technology such as night vision, infrared, dogs, aircraft, and drones. It was interesting to learn that this border patrol region was responsible for the seizure of about 50% of all drugs seized in the United States and exceeds the illegal immigrants crossing the border.

Ever since Trump promised to “build a wall,” I’ve been worried about the 1,254-mile border between Mexico and Texas, which is defined by the Rio Grande River. Learning that border patrol will work with other departments to find the best solution should a wall be mandated gave me hope that the natural habitat and view along the Rio Grande border between Mexico and Texas may escape disastrous consequences.

Sprinkles woke us Thursday morning along with a little wind, but by 11:30 a.m. the sun was shining bright. We opted for the Desert View hike through Saguaros, Ocotillo, Palo Verde and other plants and cactus and shrubs. A cabana covered table was a great place to eat our tuna sandwiches after the hike before heading to the visitor center.

We arrived in time for a ranger talk on the leaf-cutting ants, Atta mexicana. It’s amazing that new colonies of the ants have increased over the years since only five of the 500 queens that fly out of the nest to mate manage to establish a colony. These ants form fungus, which is their fuel. They discard the leftovers outside of their nests, which provides nutrients to the neighboring plants in a symbiotic relationship.

Afterward, we drove the north Puerto Blanco Road where numerous saguaros grow. Like snowflakes and fingerprints, each saguaro has its own personality and no two are alike. Some grow arms out their tops some grow them low to the ground. Many sport baby arms that look like little fluffy balls next to their brothers and sisters outstretched arms.

Back at our campsite, the sky was ablaze. Smoke from a fire beyond the left side of the photo’s frame made it look like the setting sun was the center of the conflagration.

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There were plenty more hikes and things to see at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that we have to save for another trip. We didn’t bring our generator on this tour and our batteries required a fresh charge, so it was time to move on. Next stop? Benson AZ.

Safe travels.

Morro Bay and Cambria

Road trip in December, could it be true? The dealership called to let us know our trailer was ready for pick up after its third roof repair, the service manager promised no leak after a downpour the night before. Seven days until Christmas with presents under the tree and menu set for the big day. “Morro Bay here we come.”

On December 19, 2017, we snagged a spot at Morro Dunes RV Park, our go to park in the area for its location within walking distance to the beach and Morro Rock.

We opted for an early dinner of salmon for me and fish and chips for Jon at Dutchman’s Seafood House. From our window table, we watched seagulls trailing fishing boats as they entered the harbor, otters playing in the bay, and the sun sinking into the sea. Then it was off to the grocery store to stock our refrigerator.

The next day we drove up to Cambria. We had often passed by without stopping, time to check it out. We walked along the streets wandering in and out of antique stores and one-of-a-kind gift and art stores. Usually, the offerings in touristy locations repeat from one store to the next, but not here. Each establishment had unique items to purchase.

Our favorite store was the Garden Shed where we admired birdhouses, hats, gloves, aprons, and all types of garden tools and indoor plants. The back of the store opened onto flagstone and mosaic-tile paths lined with fountains, statuary, pottery and repurposed items.

Tucked in the corners of the property are five more stores. Junk Girls was my favorite. They display their handmade products and items rescued from the landfill in such a way the browser feels compelled to purchase at least one item to take home.

We stopped in at Robin’s Restaurant for lunch. I ordered the salmon bisque and salad and Jon had the southwest bean soup and Garlic Bread. We can’t speak to other menu items, but we both enjoyed our selections.

The Cambria Historical Museum offers a walking tour for download, which details the people and families that inhabited the town dating back to the mid-1800s.

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Cambria Historical Museum

On our way back to camp, we visited Harmony Cellars, in Harmony, California. We were disappointed to learn they had no chardonnay for purchase. Although Rieslings often run too sweet for our taste, Harmony’s Riesling was a refreshing complement to the vermillion salmon we bought at Dockside Fish Market.

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Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

After a breakfast of raspberry topped pancakes on our last full day, we drove out to Museum of Natural History Morro Bay State Park. The museum overlooks the Morro Bay Estuary, features interactive exhibits of the Morro Bay site and panoramic views of the coastline. A leisurely lunch at La Palapa in Los Osos and a walk in downtown Morro Bay topped off our day.

Signs directed us to Mission San Miguel on our trip home. We had often passed by without stopping and now it was time to visit. Franciscan Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen founded Mission San Miguel in 1797. The church was completed in 1821 along with the interior frescos designed by Esteban Munras. The original frescos still decorate the walls of the church, which has never been repainted.

As we left with our memories, we headed home with renewed Christmas spirit and anticipation for a wondrous holiday with our family.

Until next trip, safe travels.

The Trail Home

We plotted a route home and left the Grand Tetons on August 12, stopping for lunch at the Heart & Soul Bakery in Pinedale WY. Pinedale is a place I’d like to spend some time in the future. They offer an abundance of recreational activities in the winter and summer months, from swooshing down hills on skis and riding snowmobiles to hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and hunting. You can even hop on the free wagon shuttle to get around town.

The Rock Springs/Green River KOA in Rock Springs WY,  just north of Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area provided a nice spot for the night. After setting up camp and eating dinner, we took Highway 530 on the west side of the gorge to an overlook and then a marina. In the distance, beyond sagebrush-covered hills, stood tops of buttes banded with red, orange, yellow, and white. A few miles later, a small herd of pronghorn antelope was feeding a few yards off the road.

The Flaming Gorge Reservoir area is a great place if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and/or a boat. Having neither we couldn’t get close enough to see the canyon walls and the water below. The next morning we packed up and took the east road, Highway 191, crossed over the reservoir bridge and made our way to Dinosaur National Monument.

We arrived early enough to snag a spot along the river in the Green River Campground and take the tram up to the dinosaur bones and see other sights in the area.

When I read they displayed dinosaur bones, I imagined boredom setting in while we wandered around a building housing glass-covered tables filled with bones. Instead, the two-story building protects a preserved dig site from weather and erosion. The bones are still encased in the sandstone mountain.

 

Next, we took the driving tour around the park. First stop, Swelter Shelter where a short walk later we viewed petroglyphs. I can see why some people would believe in ETs after seeing the carved designs in the sandstone. The images do look otherworldly.

Hills across from Split Mountain Campground show how the earth has lifted revealing the different layers of sediment.

Erosion from wind and rain on the sandstone created Turtle Rock and Elephant Toes Butte. The tour pamphlet did not mention the three mounds in front of Turtle Rock, so I named them The Three Crabs.

Our final stop on the tour was the Josie Morris Cabin. Josie arrived in the area in 1914 and built several cabins on her homestead. The cabin shown in the pictures was built in 1935. She tried married life five times but eventually chose to live alone and work her land by raising and butchering cattle, pigs, chickens, and geese. Until her death in 1965, she lived without electricity and burned wood for heat inside her cabin. The box canyon in the photos is where she corralled her livestock. I admire Josie for her bravery and toughness to eke out a living on her own terms in such a hostile environment.

The next morning we took US Route 40 out of Vernal UT, the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. In Vernal, they decorate their streets by lining them with baskets and planters brimming with purple and white petunias. The petunias distract from the billboards and signs advertising the businesses.

We then turned southwest on US Route 91, west on US Route 6 and south on Interstate 15 to the Big Mountain Campground just a few miles east of Nephi and south of Provo. This campground was my favorite of all the places we stayed. The huge trees provided shade, and the green grass and sprinklers cooled the air. They rent cabins and offer tent spots in addition to the full hookup sites for RVs. It looked like a perfect place for a writing retreat, family reunion, or just a respite from traveling. I would have liked to stay there more than one night, but we had to get back on the road.

US Route 6 took us through Utah and Nevada, connecting with US Route 395 in California after an overnight stay in Tonopah NV. Jon and I did a double take when we saw a Tesla charging station in the middle of this old mining town. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop to get a picture.

We decided to stay a few days in June Lake, one of our old stomping grounds from when we took our kids on vacation. Jon finally got an opportunity to wet a line after renting a boat at Gull Lake Marina. Although both of our mouths watered for fresh trout, Jon wasn’t able to catch our dinner. We opted for dinner out that night at the Sierra Inn Restaurant.

On August 19, we pulled up in front of our house with visions of a luxuriously long hot shower and a good night’s sleep in our king size bed.

In case you are interested, here are the stats from our Yellowstone Summer 2016 trip:

  • Nights – 44
  • Total miles driven – 4,780
  • Miles pulling fifth wheel – 2,525
  • Diesel Fuel – 379 gallons
  • RV Parks/Campgrounds – 12
  • States – 6
  • National Parks – 3
  • National Monuments – 2
  • National Forests – 8
  • National Historic Trails – 3