Sunday, 18 March 2018

Not making it to El Paso

At the beginning of November we decided we’d better head off to Texas to get our annual safety inspections carried out in El Paso, we never actually made it. 

As we drove along I10 just west of Deming a loud sharp noise startled us, I honestly thought someone had shot at us.   We pulled over onto the hard shoulder and luckily for us a New Mexico State Trooper pulled in behind us.   One of the tyres on the fifth wheel had exploded and that was the noise we’d heard.

The Trooper escorted us of I10 to a safe place and made sure we’d be able to get help.   Thank you Mr New Mexico State Trooper, we really appreciated your help that day.
When we were able to look at the tyre properly it was beyond repair and bits of shredded black plastic were hanging beneath the large slide.

Thankfully we were able to get to the spare put on, drive to the RV Park on the other side of Deming and get set up before it got dark.

The next day the tyre company told us that they’d had no end of problems with this particular make of tyre and had stopped selling them.   After hearing this we felt uneasy about the rest of them, so we even though the tyres were less than 2½ years old and we’d driven less than 10,000 miles on them, if that, we decided we’d feel safer if we replaced them all, so we did.   

We returned to Tucson and were lucky in that we were able to get all the repair work done and completed before we came home at the end of November; we’d half expected that we’d have to wait until we returned this year. 

One of the many gorgeous sunsets we saw while we were staying in Tucson.

We really enjoyed our trips in 2017, despite having some unexpected and in some cases unwanted excitement, as for 2018 who knows where we’ll get to.

Have fun, we are!

Day of the Dead

In Old Town Tucson on El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) we encountered this family, who very kindly let me take their photograph, all ready to join in the parade later in the day. 

We discovered a lovely café/bar; a small central pool is surrounded by shady trees and all around are craft and artisan shops.   One shop sells gorgeous Navajo silver jewellery, not to mention some quirky socks. 

We had thought of staying to watch the parade, but somehow we never did.

Have fun, we are!

One of our favourite drives

On another gorgeous day we drove out to Patagonia, and after coffee in ‘The Gathering Grounds’,

after which we took one of our favourite drives as we followed Harshaw Road deep into the mountains. 

Although the road starts out paved it turns into a mostly good dirt road further along.   We stopped for a while at the ruins of the old Harshaw Townsite and Mexican cemetery before continuing further on into the mountains.

Dirt roads and ATV tracks head off higher into the mountains leading to old mining towns and deserted mines, the main road continues on through Washington Camp an old mining area where miners still hope to hit the ‘motherlode’. 

As we came down onto the beautiful grasslands of the San Raphael Valley, we stopped by the stone cross commemorating Father Fray Marcos de Niza, Vice-Commissary of the Franciscan Order and delegate of the Viceroy in Mexico who was the first European west of the Rockies when he entered Arizona on 12 April 1539.

 A little further along in the centre of Lochiel we stopped underneath a huge cottonwood tree.   Lochiel was once a border crossing and my phone flashed up a ‘Welcome to Mexico’ message; needless to say we were definitely still in the US!

Nearby is the restored Old Red School House, DB walked over to have a look, last time we drove this way Lochiel had a sort of ‘lived in’ look and feel about it, but this time we didn’t see anyone and there was a deserted feel about the place.

Leaving Lochiel we followed the road through more beautiful grasslands past San Rafael State Park, which as far as we know has never been opened to the public,

stopping to look across into Mexico,  
before taking the road back to Patagonia, at one point the road forded the Santa Cruz River.

Back in Patagonia, we stopped at the Velvet Elvis; yes it really is called the Velvet Elvis, for dinner, I’m not sure how it’s get the name, although it might have something to do with a large velvet painting of Elvis on the wall.   It’s a posh pizza restaurant, the margaritas are great and the pizzas scrumptious, but absolutely huge, we both took ½ home to eat the next day.

Have fun, we are!

Back in Tucson

Leaving Laughlin and the flies behind, the next day we headed off to Tucson, Arizona taking a detour via Parker to have breakfast at the Early Bird Café. Although as we didn’t arrive until after 10.00 a.m. we weren’t exactly early birds.  

From there we continued on to Tucson and of course the closer we got the hotter it became, I really don’t know how people ever managed to live in the desert before air conditioning. Even though we picked up the truck and fifth wheel reasonably early the next day, by the time we’d checked into Rincon East and set up we were absolutely exhausted it was so hot.

We had planned on heading to New Mexico, but as DB was having knee problems, we decided to stay in Tucson instead.  The weather was gorgeous and usually temperatures are in the mid 80’s at that time of the year (October), but they were having a heatwave and most days it was pushing 100F, quite a lot hotter than we expected!  

One day we drove over to San Xavier Del Bac Mission, known as ‘The White Dove of the Desert’ it’s a beautiful place.  Although the original mission was built in 1692 by a Spanish Missionary, Father Eusebio Kino, construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

It’s the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and the inside of the church is full of original murals and statues.

While we were there we watched as a conservator worked on the altar rails slowly uncovering colourful paintwork hidden underneath years of muck and brown varnish.

Outside on the plaza some of the Tohono O'odham sell Indian Fry bread, it’s flat like a pancake and tastes a bit like a deep fried Yorkshire pudding, delicious! You can eat it with lots of different things, but we usually eat ours with honey and cinnamon sugar, scrumptious and I’m sure they’re absolutely totally fat and sugar free, not!

Have fun, we are!

On to Laughlin

The next morning we left Panacea behind as we headed for Laughlin.   Highway 93 took us through wide open spaces and past the turning for the ET highway that runs alongside so called ‘Area 51’, aliens, space ships and all things weird, supposedly.

We’d thought of driving up to the Little Alien Café in a tiny town called Rachel, but didn’t get there, I forget why.   Looking at the map later, I realized that quite a few roads we’d driven this year had taken us around the edge of ‘Area 51’ and we never saw anything the slightest bit odd.   Although if we’d been out there on a dark and lonely night, who knows!

In Laughlin we stayed at the Golden Nugget, our room overlooked the Colorado River, which was rather nice.   After dropping our bags we got a Starbucks and headed for the gazebo overlooking the river.   Although the view, as always, was lovely we were inundated with flies, we’ve encountered flies by the river before, but nothing like that it really was dreadful, needless to say we didn’t stay long.   It was very strange because as soon as you moved away from the river the flies disappeared.

We had dinner overlooking the river in the Colorado Belle and while the view was lovely, the outside of the windows were covered in flies, our waitress told us it was the time of the year and they would be spraying the river soon.  

Have fun, we are!

Around Caliente

The next day we set out for Kershaw Ryan State Park by following Highway 93 to Caliente.   Roadworks on the main highway sent us on a detour through town luckily we were still able to access Highway 317.

We followed the road until we arrived at the park, which is in a very narrow canyon and has been flooded out several times. It’s a lovely spot and as it was once part of a ranch as well as picnic tables, kids play area and paddling pool there are lawns, flowers and some fruit trees, there is also a campground near the entrance.

We decided to follow the ¼ mile trail to Horse Thief Spring thinking it would be easy, well we got that wrong!   The trail turned out to be horribly gritty and slippery, even more so as we didn’t have our boots with us, so when we reached the end we decided against walking down to the actual spring. 

After enjoying the view of the park from a very handy seat, we decided to continue on the loop trail as we thought it would be an easier trail down into the canyon, wrong again!   We were really glad to reach the end of the trail.

Highway 317 continues on through Rainbow Valley, where soaring mountains are lined with colourful rocks.

A river runs through the valley and railroad tracks crisscross their way across the road as it passes through several small communities.

To reach Elgin Schoolhouse State Historic site we followed the signs and turned into Pennsylvania Canyon, a rough dirt road that leads higher into the mountains, signs warned that the road was washed out so we didn’t even think of following it further.

After carefully crossing the railroad tracks we discovered that the schoolhouse is only open for tours and guess what, not that particular day.   Oh well, even though we couldn’t go in, we could see it from the road. 

Elgin schoolhouse was built in the 1920’s as the existing schoolhouses were too far away for kids from the valley to attend.   In use until 1969, the schoolhouse was restored in 1998 and became a Nevada State Historic Park in 2005.   It’s quite, remote and although a really pretty area, I wouldn’t want to live out there.

On our return trip to Panacea we stopped in Caliente to have a look at the old Union Pacific Railroad Station, although freight trains still travel through Caliente I’m not sure if it’s still a passenger stop.  

Have fun, we are!

Cathedral Gorge & a couple of unexpected finds

Leaving Pioche we carried on to Panacea, were we stayed in a lovely B&B for a couple of nights, in order to visit Cathedral Gorge State Park and a couple of other places.

In the 1890’s Mrs. Earle Godbe from the nearby mining town of Bullionville was one of the first visitors to appreciate the landscape.   The eroded siltstone spires reminded her of European cathedrals so she suggested the name of Cathedral Gulch which was later changed to Cathedral Gorge.

Over the years people explored the area and the gorge was used as the backdrop for Biblical Pageants and other open-air dramas becoming a State Park in 1935.

We hiked along the ½ mile trail to Miller Point.   The trail wound through a canyon along a dry wash and once we got between the canyon walls it was very hot.

At the end of the trail steps lead up to Miller Point Overlook, as we were going to drive around there we decided against climbing the steps all the way.   Once at Miller Point we walked partway along the canyon rim to take some photographs.

By this time, as it was only mid-morning, we decided we’d carry on to Spring Valley State Park.   The road took us through the mountains, past the RV Park near the entrance and around a lake, where it turned into a good gravel road.

We drove past what looked like the remains of a ranch house and then further along a stone cabin.  

One of the rangers told us that we were on the Mount Wilson Back Country Byway and although it was usually a good road because of the recent snow he didn’t recommend us trying to get over Mount Wilson.   He also told us of a couple of places we should see. 

A couple of miles further on we came to the first; an old pioneer cemetery.   The cemetery was fenced, most of the graves were untended, illegible and surrounded by sage and of the few names we could make out for once none of them were Cornish or Irish.   It’s a very picturesque spot for your last resting place.

Turning around we followed the road and stopped opposite the stone cabin.   Directly across from us was George Washington Rock.   According to the ranger many years ago on a 10ft x 10ft panel someone drew George Washington in axle grease.

Believe me we studied that rock through binoculars and never did manage to find George Washington.

I suppose, as with everything, if you know where to look it’s really obvious, but it wasn’t to us.

Heading out of the park we took Eagle Canyon Road and followed it to Rose Canyon Road.   The ranger had told us to look for an old chicken coop.   It was a lovely drive, but much further than we’d expected and we were beginning to think we’d missed it, so at a T-junction we stopped to check the map and what do you know there it was right in front of us.

The old chicken coop marks the site of an old Stage Coach Station and on the rocks drivers wrote their names and the date in axle grease.   The oldest date we found was 1872.  

We enjoyed both these sites, the more so as they were both unexpected, had it not been for directions for the ranger it's unlikely we’d've found either, so thanks Mr Ranger.

Have fun, we are!