Monday, March 20, 2017

Arizona, California, Nevada and back to California again. From heat to snow!

Got to drive the Apache Trail three times this trip!  Once one-way by myself on a quick shopping trip into Gilbert, with a return via Superior, and Globe, and a two- way trip with Don & Donna, Ken & Brenda to meet other home town folks Ron & Bev for lunch at Tortilla Flats.  Busy place as usual, and it wasn’t even a weekend!


After spending a few days at Roosevelt Lake, it was time to move on.  Sunday proved to be a decent day to skirt across the northern part of Phoenix on the Loop 202, then picked up I-10 west as far as Buckeye and Tonopah.  It was tempting to stop again for a bit at Saddle Mountain BLM area, but instead we took the Salome road, kept on rolling through Bouse and Parker, eventually stopping just south of Lake Havasu City.  My hilltop spot was available, and proved a good choice as it provided some needed air conditioning in the heat as well as a distant view of the lake.


There were surprisingly few campers there, for this time of year, which is a good thing as it means less generators!  Finally it was warm enough that open windows and a nice breeze at night was the way to go.  The bikinis were starting to blossom down at the ‘channel’, but the crowds of kids were small compared to some past years, but perhaps fewer colleges were on break this week?


As usual, we did some hiking in SARA park, and climbed Lizard Peak (Table top), and visited the on duty lizard on the way up.


They were doing some construction at the trailhead and parking lot …


Requisite photos at the table on top.


Throughout much of the desert south-west the flowers are blooming after a fair bit of rain in the last couple of months.  Lake Havasu area is no exception.


Although I certainly enjoyed the heat, and Hailey didn’t seem to mind, it was getting to the point where shade was mandatory, and fans or a breeze was desirable during much of the day.  I didn’t want to bring her with me in the truck, and was worried that it might get a bit too warm for her back at the rig if the breeze stopped or if it got even hotter.


With that in mind, out came the maps to look for a spot that was a bit cooler.  Next day we blasted on up northward through Needles, Searchlight, and Vegas.  Hailey, who just turned 7 about a week ago as best we can guess suggested following 95 north of Vegas as neither of us could remember paralleling the Nevada/California border up past Beatty, Nv.  So that’s where we headed.  But since our intended route had to include the hot springs near Mammoth Lakes, we turned off on 266 to make our way back into California.  The route included Lida summit at 7400’, and two slightly lower passes the next day after a very quiet night roadside at the Gold Point junction.  Once back in California, and there are no ‘fruit customs’ on this route, we were on Hwy 168.  The last part of it was winding and familiar as it connects to the Bristlecone pine road that we blogged about back in November.  It was refreshing to see all the snow covered peaks while we topped up the fuel and food in Bishop. As we climbed the 395 north of Bishop, the snow line came down closer and closer to the road.



Soon the snow line was well below the road … hmmm, perhaps a bit too cool!  We finally got to the turnoff to Wild Willy’s hot springs, only to find the road closed, gated, and blocked by two feet of snow.  Guess we won’t be camping there this time ;-(.


There are several springs in the area that are accessible with a short hike from the pavement, but I saw a couple of snow machines being used, and at Hilltop springs, which seats about 6-8 persons max, there must have been twenty cars parked along the road.  So with the spring break/skier crowds, you’d be lucky to get your big toe soaked!


Serious change of plans required, obviously.  Being on the ‘wrong’ side of the Sierra’s, a choice had to be made how to get to the more temperate weather on the coast.  Not wanting to backtrack south all the way down to Bakersfield, it didn’t take long to decide to continue north towards Carson City/Reno area.  Fortunately, there were more hot springs along the way that we explored on the way south in the fall.  Travertine hot springs near Bridgeport had no snow on the ground, and little of the spring break/skier crowd so prevalent at Mammoth.

By coffee time on Monday morning, all was right again!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Unlimited Data! New Mexico and back.

Doesn’t take long for a blog to get out of date!  You don’t blog for a couple of weeks, and before you know it, it’s old news!

Looks like we left off in Harshaw, the ghost town out in the woods not too far from Patagonia, Az.  That was where I was when I got the call from the Mastercard fraud dept.  You always know it’s good news when they call Winking smile.  They told me that my card had been compromised and that they were canceling it and would send me out a new one.  This is not good news as I have a number of accounts that directly bill my credit card.  And I am not anywhere near home so getting a new card is not quick or convenient.  So I asked them what exactly had been charged to my card?  They told me it was a $0.97 charge that had been refunded!  I know that can be a crooks way of testing a card, but eventually managed to convince MC not to cancel the card unless something more devastating and devious turned up.  Keeping a close eye on it, but so far no issues and my bills are getting paid.

After chatting with the Bayfield Bunch, live and in person (!), and getting updated information on Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, it seemed like a good plan to head on over there as it was only a short drive away from where we were.  They had already departed the morning we arrived, but we found us a nice spot under some huge old trees with plenty of shade, and hours of climbing fun for Hailey.


Our spot was just a bit to the north of the old ranch headquarters area, but we never did find the time to go over there and have a look.  I took a drive one day, hoping to see some of those elusive antelope that Al had photographed right out his RV window.  But alas, even after miles of driving and hours of glassing, the only thing seen was a half dozen white-tailed deer near the HQ.  But our drive took us way north of the airstrip and back on a ‘secondary’ trail, where if we opened one gate, we opened at least 20 to get back.  We did come across the prairie dog colony, but to me they did not look like the endangered black-tail variety.


When the main road finally appeared again, it was worth the trip to check out the southern access to the Conservation area. When I visited the last time in 2013, that southern portion of the road was very rough for any type of camper, but it is now beautifully smooth and well maintained.  The memories of that road had discouraged me from returning – till this year.

Being close to Sierra Vista, it was time to make my annual trek down there and visit a friend who works for US parks down here.  After getting caught up on all the news, I decided to check out some new country.

We headed down through Bisbee, and then on to Douglas, where we turned north and followed highway 80 up into New Mexico, through Rodeo, Lordsburg and eventually over the continental divide to Silver City.  Bear Mountain road seemed like it might provide some good camp spots, but an evening drive up into the high country proved otherwise with everything blocked off or too rough.  Reluctantly, it was back down into Silver City where it was decided to try out Walmart hospitality.  It was surprisingly quiet, and the free wifi was available all night.  I think this was the first stop at WM this winter?  Next day, it was back over the divide just a few miles out of town, and we followed 180 north past Gila, Buckhorn, Alma, before eventually crossing back into Arizona into Alpine, which sits over 8000 feet.

While it was certainly a scenic route, I don’t think it was nearly as spectacular as the parallel route up Highway 191 on the Arizona side, which we did in 2014.  That side is perhaps slightly more intimidating with it’s complete lack of guardrails over some impressive drop offs! 

Through Springerville, but with the winds becoming intense, and after checking out some alternate options, we found ourselves once again in the lee of a Walmart complex with free wifi in Show Low!  With two roughly equal distance options to get to Roosevelt Lake, our next destination, the route down through the Fort Apache reservation got the nod.  The choice was a good one, with some spectacular scenery and amazing road construction down across the Salt river canyon.


Upon reaching Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National forest, and checking out a couple other options, common sense was left on the roadside and we ended up dragging the rig into the high country overlooking Roosevelt lake.  The ‘road’ had been recently graded, but when it was too wet, so the grader ended up leaving piles of hardened mud and deep ruts.  ‘Normal folk’ unload their quads at the bottom  and ride up.  Not me; I put it in 4 wheel low and drag it on up!


Its a nice level spot when you get there, but it’s anything but on the way up!


More photos here from my last visit to this spot in 2014.

When some friends from Alberta and Saskatchewan arrived, it was back down into ‘normal folks’ campground on the shore of the lake.  This would be only the second time this winter resorting to real campgrounds. Of course, several loud, cheap generators spoiled any chance of enjoying an otherwise beautiful warm calm moonlit evening.  Didn’t need much of a reminder why I rarely stay in those crowded places!


Thanks to a tip from John,  of John & Brenda’s incredible adventure, I started to check out a very new entry in the most excellent price war on the ‘unlimited data’ battlefield.  To make a long story short, I ended up with a $99. ZTE Mobley device that AT&T will supply with unlimited data for a paltry $20/month.  They are hard to find, and you have to tell the AT&T people about the plan, and dispel some of their misconceptions along the way!  It plugs into the OBD II port under the dash in your late model vehicle, but with a little ingenuity Smile, it can come with you in your RV, or home, or wherever.  Mine is already wherever!  So far, works great!