Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

We kicked off our Winter 2020 Tour with a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on January 24, 2020. Oak Park Campground in Simi Valley, California, was a convenient, inexpensive place to park the fifth wheel. They only offer electricity and water as hookups, which was sufficient for the two-night stay.

We backed up to an embankment under a tree, then realized the Los Angeles Metro traversed a set of tracks at the top. The noise was not a problem, though. The trains whisked east and west without a blaring whistle or rumbling of the ground.

View from RV’s back window

The next day we thought we arrived at Reagan’s museum in time to obtain a parking spot. Silly us. We turned around and joined the line of cars on the side of the road.

The Easy Fire in October had caused approximately $500,000 in damage to the library by destroying trees, landscapes, and banners along Presidential Drive. The entire network and cabling were burned, cutting off the internet and point of sale systems. Through hard work from the information systems team, all systems were up and running within 30 hours. Fortunately, the buildings and artifacts remained untouched due to the efforts of fire personnel.

Green shoots popping up through the burn scars below Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

This was our fourth presidential library to visit. Our first three were Lyndon B. Johnson, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. If anyone is interested, our blog posts for each are located here, here, and here, respectively.

Construction of the facility began in 1988, and the center was dedicated on November 4, 1991. The Reagan library and museum is the largest, in terms of size, of the 14 presidential libraries and contains millions of documents, photographs, films, and tapes. Permanent exhibits display the President’s life and his presidency, the Air Force One plane used by the president, and a section of masonry from the Berlin Wall. The property chosen for his library and museum is located in Simi Valley on a hill with views of the surrounding property and more hills in the distance.

View from Reagan library and museum
View from Reagan library and museum

Former President Reagan and his wife Nancy greet visitors at the start of the museum.

Ronnie and Nancy allowed Jon to enter even though he was a tad underdressed

The museum starts off with Reagan’s early life, high school, and university. Displays include sports memorabilia and photographic posters.

Early life display

Jon addressed the crowd as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Jimmy Carter applauded.

Jon gives his acceptance speech

A docent stands inside the Oval Office and tells stories about the president and points out the objects in the room. Only a few people at a time can stand and listen to the docent, and there are no photo opportunities allowed while sitting at the desk.

Oval Office as it was during Reagan’s presidency
Sitting area in Oval Office. Can you spot the jelly beans?

Panels in this hallway display many of the gifts received from foreign dignitaries.

Displays with gifts from dignitaries

As if they were models, first ladies often wear the most fashionable attire. This case displays only a few of the garments Nancy wore during her time in the White House. The information panel under the black dress in the middle says Nancy added the straps with the bows.

Nancy Reagan’s gowns

This is what it would look like coming face-to-face with the man, the actor, the 40th president of the free world. It was only a mural on the wall but felt strangely real.

Mr. President

The first half of the museum ends in a hallway that looks out onto the Rose Garden.

Rose Garden

We continued down the hall to see the Air Force One Pavilion before taking in the second half of the museum.

The Air Force One Pavilion houses the Boeing 707 aircraft used as Air Force One during Reagan’s administration and by six other presidents until it was retired in 2001. The plane was flown to San Bernardino International Airport where Boeing disassembled it, then trucked it in pieces to the library where it was reassembled and restored.

The pavilion was dedicated on October 24, 2005, by Nancy Reagan, President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. Reagan was buried on the library grounds in an underground vault on June 12, 2004. Nancy Reagan was buried next to her husband on March 11, 2016.

The glass wall, massive Air Force One raised on 25-foot (7.5 m) pillars, Reagan’s travel timeline, a Johnson-era Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King helicopter (Marine One), Reagan’s 1984 inaugural presidential limousine, and the history of the Flying White House mural, made this exhibit my favorite part of the whole museum. The 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) addition is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

The glass wall of Air Force One Pavilion
Reagan’s travel timeline details over 660,000 miles to 26 foreign countries and 46 U.S. States
Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King
The History of the Flying White House Mural

Inside of Air Force One, visitors can envision life aboard the jet as it raced across the country or toward foreign lands.

Meeting compartment
Fruit and jelly beans available for snacks

A chocolate cake was always on board in case it was someone’s birthday.

Chocolate cake

Photos are not allowed at the entrance to the jet because someone is there to take your picture for a fee. We settled for the exit and rear of the plane.

Jon at the tail

Back to the rest of the tour, we walked through exhibits with information on the Camp David Peace Accord, negotiations with Gorbachev, and the Berlin Wall among other historic events during Reagan’s presidency.

An interactive table offers further learning
Berlin Wall exhibit set a bleak mood
Grafitti
Sculptures and information panels

Posters and memorabilia depicting life on Rancho del Cielo are also included. Visitors can also have their picture taken riding next to Ronnie at his ranch.

Camp David display
We passed on the photo op

At the end of the tour is this case with iconic memorabilia.

Memorabilia

Visitors can also see a 1980s stealth fighter and aircraft used in the first 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident.

F-117 Nighthawk
F-14 Tomcat

A visit to this library can take the whole day, so come early, eat lunch in the cafe, and enjoy all there is to see. In addition to the information on Reagan, the library also hosts special exhibits, which are announced on the website.

We enjoy comparing and contrasting the different presidential libraries and museums. So far, we favor Lyndon B. Johnson’s best, although each of the ones we’ve seen is special and unique.

Next stop: Palm Desert, California, where we poke around and soak up the desert sun.

Safe Travels

Back in Lake Havasu City Again

With family and friends residing in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we find Lake Havasu City a convenient place to stop when traveling to and from California. We had a special reason to roll into town on November 2, 2019. My sister’s daughter and granddaughter were coming in from Missouri for a visit. We couldn’t pass up a chance to see the baby in person for the first time.

Our grandniece, Amelia, entertained us with her good humor and smiling face while we ate our lunch at the Blue Chair. The Blue Chair at the English Village is a great place for a meal with a view of the London Bridge and boats navigating through the canal.

What you doin’ over there, Uncle Jon?

Amelia entertained not only us, but also the waitress and other diners nearby. She has a way of smiling with her whole body that invites a person in to take notice and bask in her sunshine of happiness.

Our niece Jessi and grandniece Amelia
Amelia kept up the smiles the entire time we ate our lunch
I’ll have what you’re having

Lake Havasu Museum

As many times as we have been to LHC, we had never ventured near the museum. This trip was our opportunity. The self-guided tour starts with honoring the people who resided in the area before the US government forced them into reservations during the 1860s and 1870s. On display are individual stories about the Mojave, the People by the River, and the Chemehuevi, the Special People, and artifacts from their time.

Native peoples lived here before the Europeans arrived
Try your hand at grinding grain

Parker Dam was built between 1934 and 1938, creating Lake Havasu. The construction brought jobs to the unemployed during the Great Depression, generated electricity and provided water for aqueducts that quenched the thirst of agricultural, industrial, and residents arriving in the Arizona desert.

Building the Parker Dam

Evidence suggests that Mexican miners worked in the mountains and the backcountry of Lake Havasu City as early as the 1830s. In 1857, Anglos discovered gold and mining continues to this day. Local prospectors often find a few nuggets using a method called placer mining, or sifting through gravel to find pieces of gold.

Mining then and now

Site Six was built during WWII as an emergency landing strip and later used as an R&R facility for Air Force personnel. Later it was purchased by McCulloch and used for testing his outboard motors. The city now operates a recreational boating facility on the property within the Lake Havasu State Park.

World War II Site Six

While looking at the display about Lake Havasu City history, one of the volunteers told us stories about the early years. She and her husband arrived in 1971 when he took over the practice of a retiring certified public accountant.

A city grows

She told us how Robert P. McCulloch arrived in Lake Havasu City in 1958 in search of a test center for his outboard motors and how his company, McCulloch Properties Inc., purchased 16,250 acres from the State of Arizona in 1963 for $73.00 per acre. The rocky undeveloped land became the city built on the shores of Lake Havasu.

The business that started it all
Promotional articles brought investors to Lake Havasu City

In 1968, Robert P. McCulloch purchased the London Bridge at a cost of $2,460,000. It took another $7 million and three years to label the granite bricks with markings indicating their arch span, row number, and position; ship the 10,000 tons of granite across the ocean, through the Panama Canal, and into the desert; and put the bridge together again. To allow for traffic over the bridge, the granite bricks encase a hollow core of steel-reinforced concrete. The channel where water flows under the bridge was dug out to create the island.

Museum display about the London Bridge

On October 10, 1971, the London Bridge was celebrated with fanfare that included skydivers, fireworks, marching bands, hot air balloons and a meal fit for King William IV who unveiled the original bridge in London in 1831. London’s Lord May attended along with actor Robert Mitchum and Dan Rowan of the Rowan & Martin comedy duo on television’s Laugh-In.

Although many thought McCulloch’s bridge was a waste of money and a boondoggle, it turned out to be a clever marketing scheme that grew the city from only a few hundred people in the early 1960s to 10,000 by 1974 and brought in visitors totaling two million.

The docent made sure to point out the heads on stakes displayed in the middle of the building. They represented people in London who King Henry VIII had ordered beheaded for their crimes. The king may have only perceived the people guilty and found his orders as a means to dispose of his enemies. In any case, displaying the heads on a 1500s version of the London Bridge was used as a crime deterrent.

Heads on a stake

The second head from the left represents Thomas Cromwell who died in 1540. He was King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister who supervised the English Church’s break with the Catholic Church. After arranging for the king’s marriage to the German Princess, Ann of Cleves, his fourth wife, the king blamed Cromwell for the marriage to Ann because she was not attractive. Cromwell was jailed on trumped-up charges and condemned to death without trial. His beheading occurred on the day the king married Katherine Howard, his fifth of six wives.

Red Onion and a Walk to Gawk at Classic Cars

On a late Thursday afternoon, we drove downtown for lunch at the Red Onion. While there, classic car owners rolled up to show off their rides, drink beer, grab a bite to eat, and engage in car talk. Food trucks were also on hand to feed the hungry.

Visit Red Onion Restaurant for breakfast or lunch
Chrome reflection
Pontiac GTO
Come on, let’s go for a ride
Look at that shine

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

We headed out to Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge one evening to snap a few photos of the sunset. Although not spectacular, I had fun playing with the tripod and settings on my camera.

Bill Williams Bridge
Lake Havasu beyond the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge
The colors really popped after the sunset

Visiting Lake Havasu City

Boredom is something that no one needs to worry about in Lake Havasu. With over 300 annual events throughout the year, there is always something happening: London Bridge Days, Winterfest Street Festival, Balloon Festival, music festivals, Parade of Boats, Buses by the Bridge, fishing tournaments, Havasu 95 Speedway, rodeos, and much more. Other activities include golfing, fishing, exploring the backcountry, or taking the ferry across the lake to Havasu Landing Casino. Oldsters, youngsters, and in-betweeners will find something to keep them busy.

Next stop: Lake Mead

Safe Travels

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

 We rolled into Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on October 29, 2019. Fall is a good time to visit. With no reservations required and the pick of sites available, we slid into a site with no problem even though barriers blocked off four or five of the campground rows.

Our campsite at Twin Peaks Campground with no one to our right, to our left, or in front or back.

We talked about heading into Mexico to check out Puerto Peñasco since we were so close. All we managed was a drive to the Lukeville border crossing where we thought we could fill up with diesel. Unfortunately, the station was out of diesel. Perhaps we’ll make it to the beach on our next trip to the area.

Night Photography Attempt

Sunset view of peaks

The dark skies and lack of ambient light turned out to be a perfect place for nighttime photography. I set up my Sony and the tripod and waited for the sun to set.

Typical fiery Arizona sunset

As I watched the stars and planets take form and twinkle in the deep black sky, a feeling of peace and calm settled in my bones. The swath of light that sparkled above, reminded me that the Milky Way is present each night even if fog, clouds, or light pollution obscures it from view.

After sunset, the full moon was visible even though it was in its waxing crescent phase

It was as if the universe was giving me a message: a message of hope that humans will once again survive the chaos of the world.

First attempt at capturing the Milky Way. Looks like I need more practice.

Victoria Mine Trail

 The Victoria Mine Trail leads hikers into and out of 13 sets of washes and plateaus and past hillsides covered with saguaro, organ pipe, cholla, paloverde, ocotillo, and other shrubs.

Steps made it easy going in and out of the gulleys

The reward after about 2.4 miles is the ruins from a 19th-century gold and silver mine at the foothills of the Sonoyta Mountains.

Mine store ruins

We rested on a makeshift bench in front of the ruins and ate our lunch, guarding our tuna sandwiches and chips against greedy squirrels that would have easily snatched our meal if given half a chance.

Mine store ruins
Covered mine shaft
View of peaks across a plateau of saguaros, organ pipes, and ocotillos
Inside the mine store ruins
Mining equipment

Historic Events

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the monument on April 13, 1937. As one might imagine, the local ranchers and miners raised a fuss because they would no longer be allowed to use the land for their own purposes. Congress took action during WWII that allowed mining within the monument, which drew prospectors to the area in droves. On September 28, 1976, the act was repealed and the mining operations ceased.

Organ Pipe Cactus

In 1976, UNESCO declared the monument an international biosphere reserve and in 1977 congress declared 95% of the monument as wilderness.

Chain fruit cholla

During the 1990s, illegal immigrants and drug traffickers found the monument a convenient location to enter the United States with over 200,000 undocumented immigrants crossing monument lands during 2000. In 2002, park ranger Kris Eggle was killed in action and in 2003 the park service renamed the visitor center in his honor.

Ocotillo

This led to the closing of 70% of the monument. In 2004, construction on steel vehicle barriers began along the 33 miles of the international boundary and was completed in 2006. This significantly reduced the illegal off-road vehicle traffic, which had caused severe damage to the desert ecosystem. In the 2010s new technology further deterred illegal entry and on September 15, 2014, the park reopened the closed areas.

Creosote blooms

Recently, as work began on replacing border barriers with a steel bollard design, controversy, protests, legal action, criticism, and even support erupted. The debate continues with scientists and environmentalists intent on protecting endangered species of wildlife and desert plants pitted against a government determined to stem the current tide of illegal immigration.

Baby saguaro arms

History shows that wildlife and plants often lose at the hands of the government. My wish is that the groups on either side of the debate are able to achieve an agreement that is palatable to both. Can the issues be resolved by this time next year? I wonder.

I found this guy digging around in the ground before he grabbed the thing in his beak and took off

If you would like to learn more about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, check out our previous discussion on the park in our post titled Lake Havasu and Beyond.

Next up is another visit to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. With family and friends in the city, the location is a convenient stop for us when traveling beyond California.

Oh, before I sign off, I have an announcement. On January 1, 2020, a good friend of ours opened a new bar in the desert. For those of you in the area, check out The Bunker Bar near Havasu Heights. Here’s a photo I took on November 8, 2019, a few days after the containers were delivered.

The Bunker Bar Lake Havasu City November 8, 2019

From Highway 95, take Havasu Heights Road and immediately turn right on the graded dirt road. Drive about 2 miles and enjoy the beer and wine, food, music, and fun. Visit Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For current pictures and more information go to https://www.facebook.com/bunkerbarlhc/

Safe Travels

Happy 2020 New Year and Tucson Part Two

Yikes! It’s the start of a new year and a new decade. It seemed weird to me when the year 2000 crept into my consciousness. It’s even harder for me to imagine we are heading into twenty years of this century. Yet, here we are racking up the birthdays and still having fun. Before we get into our travel plans for 2020, we need to finish our 2019 Fall Tour. So, on to Tucson, Arizona, Part Two.

An hour drive south on Interstate 19 from Tucson led us to Tubac Presidio Historic State Park. The park preserves the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona where visitors can roam through the gardens, walk around the foundation ruins, peek inside historic buildings, and step down into the Tubac Presidio Archaeological Excavation Exhibit.

Tubac Presidio State Park Visitor Center

The Pima Indians (or Akimel O’odham) occupied the territory for thousands of years relying on farming, hunting, gathering, and trading to provide food and shelter to sustain their way of life. In 1752, New Spain established San Ignacio de Tubac to protect settlers from Apaches and Seris, control the Pimas, and expand west.

Display along the walkway

Then Mexico gained control in 1821 at the end of the Spanish War for Independence. The land transferred to the US under the Gadsen Purchase in 1853 and became part of the New Mexico Territory. The Confederate States of America claimed control in 1862.

Fruit Orchard on site

Finally, on February 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed legislation officially recognizing the US Arizona Territory, and in 1912, Arizona earned statehood.

Herb and vegetable raised beds

Tubac Historical Events

 Juan Bautista de Anza III traveled through the region in 1776 while on an expedition to found the City of San Francisco in California. Sixty-three people from Tubac joined the party on their trek increasing the number of colonists to 240 and taking with them 1,000 head of livestock, horses, and mules.

Barrel cactus at the end of its blooming season

Attacks by the Apache forced many of the remaining Tubac settlers north to Tucson, leaving the presidio deserted and in ruins.

Blooming creosote bush

In 1856, Charles DeBrille Poston arrived from Texas with 300 miners and set up his Sonora Mining & Exploring Company headquarters at the presidio. The company abandoned the site during the Civil War and the Union Army moved in.

Agave Victoria Regina

The park exists today due to the generous donation of the first parcels by Frank and Olga Griffin on December 21, 1957. The donated land included the foundation of the Spanish Presidio. William Morrow also donated property and encouraged other residents to donate adjacent properties to the Park’s Board. Additional property donations allowed for a new visitor center and museum. Three of the properties are of historic significance: the 1885 Old School, the 1914 Otero School, and the 1890 Rojas House.

1880s Schoolhouse

Billed as Arizona’s first state park on the park’s website, the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park was dedicated and opened on September 28, 1958. Since the “great recession” of 2007 to 2009, the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum has operated the park and visitor center with volunteers.

Schoolhouse along the walking path

A walking path took us through cactus, fruit trees, vegetables, and one of the oldest schools in Arizona. Inside the school are period classroom desks and educational displays.

The rocks outline the west wall of the presidio. Redish colored structure in the background is the archaeological excavation site.

Don’t miss the archaeology excavation exhibit where the layers of time are shown along with a small display of artifacts found during the excavation.

Below ground in the archaeological excavation site

Unfortunately, none of the original building remains above ground, however, there are a few other adobe ruins, which date after presidio’s establishment.

Adobe ruins at Tubac
This adobe building is protected by stucco

We missed out on seeing the museum because it was closed due to repairs, so maybe we’ll make it back to the presidio in the future.

This arrastra replica shows how silver and gold ore were ground and pulverized.

The state park is not the only attraction in Tubac. There are plenty of galleries, arts and crafts, and gift shops to browse through along with restaurants for food and beverages. We stopped in at Soto’s Outpost to curb our craving for Mexican food and were not disappointed.

Soto’s Outpost

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Museum is somewhat of a misnomer since 85% of the displays are outdoors and cover ninety-eight acres. With a botanical garden, zoo exhibits, art gallery and institute, natural history museum, and aquarium, visitors will find plenty to pique their interest.

How do birds prevent hurting themselves on the cactus spines?

William H. Carr, with support from his friend and the museum’s initial benefactor, Arthur Pack, founded the museum in 1952. Docents contribute more than 75,000 hours annually to the museum.

Does anyone know the name of this specimen?

Two miles of walking paths provide opportunities to view the types of animals and plants that inhabit the Sonoran Desert, a mineral collection, conservation and research programs, and an art institute. As if that amount of diversity is not enough to track, the ASDM Press has also produced over 40 books and guides on the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran desert region.

Both paved and gravel pathways wind their way through the museum

From the desert grasslands to the mountain woodlands, the museum highlights the ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region with 1,200 different types of plants and 56,000 individual specimens. Visitors can walk through Cat Canyon and observe bobcats, a porcupine, grey fox, and an ocelot in their natural settings. Or, head to the Riparian Corridor for a glimpse at a river otter, beavers, bighorn sheep, and coatis. The Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrate Hall is a great place to escape the outdoor heat.

View of the valley from the museum

Our favorites were the Raptor Free Flight and the Hummingbird Aviary. Although the weather was warm, we stood corralled between metal barriers among other spectators and waited for the raptors to appear.

Barn owl flying in for the show
Aren’t I pretty?

An announcer explained about the birds while they flew over the crowd between their handlers who crouched close to the ground or stood with outstretched arm gloved hands. Cameras and phones worked double-time to capture the birds in flights.

Harris’s hawk looking for prey
Where’s the meat?
Ready or not, here I come.
King of the tree.
Gray hawk on take off
Hmmm. What should I do now?

The Hummingbird Aviary was a similar experience. At first we didn’t see the small birds, then little by little they appeared, flitting from tree to bush and back to tree. Standing in place gave us the best advantage to capture the little buggers in a photo.

Sweet little hummingbird
What you lookin’ at?

Two restaurants—Ocotillo Café for fine dining and Ironwood Terrace for a casual food-court setting—are on site. Additional snack shops and refillable water stations are also available.

Wall decoration in the Ocotillo Café

As we wrap up this Tucson visit, we see why visitors call Tucson their home during the winter months. I’m sure we’ll find an occasion to stop there again when wandering around the Southwest.

Next stop: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Wishing everyone safe travels in 2020 and beyond.

Jon & Linda Todd