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

Another Day Another Park: Alviso Adobe Community Park

On Friday, May 1, 2020, I ventured out of the house for a bit of exercise, which is allowed under the current coronavirus orders issued by the county health department. While driving the short 2.6 miles from home, I noticed I wasn’t the only one out and about. The traffic on the roads had increased from a month ago. My destination was the Alviso Adobe Community Park. Although the buildings were closed—temporarily said the sign—there wasn’t a notice that said keep out, no trespassing, or anything like that. So I figured a walk around the grounds wouldn’t hurt.

Entrance to Alviso Adobe Community Park

As one enters under the arch, the journey back in time begins in 2008 when the park opened.

Imprints mark down the years on the sidewalk

Along the concrete path, information panels tell the story of the various humans who have used the land over the past 5,200 years.

Mexican Bush Marigold

Visitors meander around as the trail gently slopes up through the grasses, under oak trees, past a tule home in suspended construction, and across the footbridge that spans a seasonal creek until you arrive in 3240 B.C.

Tule home under construction
Butterfly on moss verbena

At the top of the little hill stands the Milking Barn where exhibits and artifacts are located. Docents are on hand to answer questions on days it is open.

Milking barn and visitor center

The Alviso Adobe is furnished in the style of a California farmhouse in the 1920s. I’ve not seen inside. One of these days, I need to visit on a date they give tours.

Alviso Adobe

The trail continues around the fenced-in orchard of Asian plum trees toward a bee and butterfly garden. Except for the butterfly in the photo above, I didn’t see any bee and butterfly action.

This way to the butterfly garden

Wild turkeys are a common sight around the foothills, and with no one around, this pair had the picnic area to themselves.

Wild turkeys hidden in the grass

The orchard trees are barely visible behind the locked gate and tall grass. Someone better mow the grass soon before it turns brown and becomes a fire hazard.

Plum tree orchard

Franciso Alviso built the house in 1854 on a portion of the Rancho Santa Rita Mexican Land Grant. The ranch was subdivided during the railroad boom in the 1860s. Then the property changed ownership several times and was used by tenant farmers until 1919. Walter M. Briggs purchased the land for his Meadowlark Dairy, the first certified dairy in California. Dairy workers used the adobe as a kitchen and dining area until 1969 when the dairy moved operations to Tracy, California, twenty-eight miles to the east through the Altamont Pass.

Bhutan Pine

Subsequently, plans for an amusement park fell through, and a real estate company converted most of the land to housing lots. The seven acres, which included the adobe, was donated to the City of Pleasanton. Plans for the renovation and construction of the park called for a thirty-nine-foot silo next to the milking barn; however, residents nearby nixed the structure. Construction continued, and the park opened in 2008.

The site of the dairy silo is located behind the milking barn

The residents must have thought the silo would be unsightly. Perhaps so when first built, more than ten years later, though, I suspect it would have gained landmark status.

View from behind the milking barn. Mt. Diablo is visible in the top left side of the photo.

Things to do besides wandering around taking photos include exhibits and artifacts housed in the milking barn, and when open, docents are available to answer questions. The city offers field trips for school children during the week, and every third weekend they conduct tours from 12 p.m.—3 p.m. Of course, changes in times and days as listed on the website may occur once the county allows the park’s reopening.

Pomegranate bush

Special events like the Lady Bug Garden Crawl for ages 2-6 scheduled on May 9, and the Got Milk program on May 16 and 17 when visitors can churn their own ice cream would be fun. I suspect the city will cancel these programs. Freshly churned ice cream sounds good to me, so I’m adding it to my list of things to do next year.

Tree Anemone

As you can see, the Alviso Adobe was the shiny gem that caught my attention this week, delaying a post on our 2016 trip to Texas and Big Bend National Park for at least another week. We are in lockdown through May, and it wouldn’t surprise me if another extension is in store for us. We’re taking the current situation one day at a time, one week at a time, and one month at a time. Jon continues his gardening projects,  and I stay busy too. We both dream of hitting the road again, yet we know it won’t be soon.

Stay Safe