Monday, July 28, 2014

All is Well

Clovis’ RV Doctor made a house call and diagnosed the leak as having nothing to do with us hitting the tire tread. A couple of water lines were installed in a way that they rubbed against one of the trailer’s wheels. After 5 years and 75,000 miles the water line (plastic tubing) wore all the way through.  He was able to repair the leak and install a barrier to prevent this from happening again. We’re good to go on to Abilene, TX and Dallas.

NOT AGAIN!!!

As you may recall, near the beginning of this trip we ran over a road cone in a highway construction project and damaged some pipes and stuff under the trailer.

Yesterday, as we were passing through Albuquerque, the truck in front of us swerved to avoid a tire tread lying in our lane, but since there were vehicles on both sides of us, all I could do was run over it. We stopped at the next rest area to see if any damage was done, and everything looked okay.

Then we got to our campground in Clovis, NM, hooked up the water hose, and when we turned on the water it just poured out of the bottom of the camper. Apparently that ornery tire tread broke a water pipe somewhere under the trailer. Fortunately, Clovis has an “RV Doctor” who makes house calls, so we’re waiting for him to get here to give us a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fire & Ice

Earlier on this trip I posted a comment that this year’s excursion seems to be our “volcano” tour since everywhere we’ve gone in the west seems to have a bunch of volcanoes. Guess what – we’re not done yet.

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This is a view looking up the slope of Mt. Bandera, a cinder cone volcano near Grants, New Mexico, 80 miles west of Albuquerque. (The spelling of Albuquerque never looks right, but my spell-checker says it’s correct, so who am I to argue?)

DSC_0601 There are 26 hopefully extinct volcanoes in this area which is known as the El Malpais region. There’s also an El Malpais National Monument, which we drove through but didn’t visit since it’s mostly wilderness.

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This is Bandera’s crater. It last erupted 10,000 years ago, first spewing flaming cinders and then depositing a river of lava more than 17 miles long. We hiked to the top – about a mile-long trail. We survived so we must be finally acclimating to the altitude. The elevation where I was standing when I took this picture is 8,036 feet.

DSC_0613 The most fascinating thing about Bandera Volcano is what lies beneath. That cave is the mouth of a lava tube, and what looks like greenish water at the bottom is actually ice.

 

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That’s right – we’re in the desert and the outside temperature is in the 90s but the temperature in the cave never goes above 31 degrees. The deepest ice is the oldest and dates back 3400 years. The ice is formed by rain and snow melt seeping into the cave and the ice floor is about 20 feet deep. The green tint is caused by Arctic algae.

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Ancient Anasazi Indians, and later, white settlers mined ice here until 1946. The  owners of this privately run attraction used a smaller ice cave as a refrigerator until electricity was run to the property.

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This image is what looked to me like a couple or pieces of white washed wood leaning on the attraction’s office wall among some pieces of petrified wood. Penny and I disagreed about what it was until we touched it. I hate to admit Penny was right. It is petrified wood that seems to have been converted to quartz crystal.

 

I’ve been asked how much we plan ahead on these trips, so I figured I could answer that question here. Before departing from home we have major destinations in mind. For example, on this trip we knew we were going to visit Crater Lake and Las Vegas, and other specific destinations. But there’s always a lot of land between those destination points, so we plot a course between those points, planning to drive between 250 and 300 miles a day. We’ll find a campground at that distance and when we get there we’ll research the area to see what’s interesting and there’s almost always something interesting. We’re currently en route from the Grand Canyon to Dallas, Texas, and the route put us in New Mexico. And that’s how we found the remarkable ice cave.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red Rocks

I need to apologize to Arizona. Last year, after touring Utah’s national parks, I remarked that Utah has the most incredible rocks in the country. Sorry Arizona, you have some pretty incredible rocks too.

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Driving east and south from the north rim of the Grand Canyon you come to an area known as the Vermillion Cliffs.

According to the Bureau of Land Management’s web site: “This remote and unspoiled, 280,000-acre [National} Monument is a geologic treasure, containing a variety of diverse landscapes from the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. Elevations range from 3,100 to 7,100 feet.”

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The colors of these desolate peaks are extraordinary. To an artist vermillion means a pigment of bright red. In nature, at least in this area of Arizona, the colors range from pink to a deep red, and pretty much every tint in-between.

DSC_0568 As is always the case with the soaring, magnificent landscapes of the west, photographs can’t do justice to the reality of these almost indescribable peaks and plateaus.

 

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And then we got to the red rocks area in Sedona. The town is a bit greener, probably due to a slightly better water supply and higher elevation.

 

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One of the cool things about this lovely community, and I don’t know if it’s by law or just because people here love the landscape, the exterior of most houses and commercial buildings in Sedona are painted to match the colors of the surrounding mountains.

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The result is a town that fits it’s environment even better than Frank Lloyd Wright could imagine. The downside is that with so few colors being used in construction, and the style being one or two story adobe, a lot of buildings look very similar. We were looking for a Walgreens and when our GPS told us we had arrived, we couldn’t see the store until after we passed it.

After shopping at Walgreens we decided to drive north on US 89A to Flagstaff. Now, when we were looking for a campground in this area, the web site of one of the parks warned RVers to stay off 89A. We didn’t have the trailer in tow when we went up the road.

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The warning had to do with a narrow winding road with switchbacks, falling rocks, mudslides and flash floods. If you look closely at this image you can see a few of the switchbacks. We didn’t run into any of the falling rocks, mudslides or flash floods.

By the way, Sedona, Flagstaff and our campground is at a higher elevation than Phoenix where the temperature hit 114 degrees today. We didn’t have to deal with that. The TV weather folks again said it will cool off to 105 tomorrow. I guess “cool” is a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grand Canyon, Sweet!

From our remarkably successful visit to the penny slots in Las Vegas, we headed north to the Grand Canyon. We’ve been to this national park before, but that time we visited the south rim, where all the tourists go.

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The view from the north rim isn’t all that different. If you look closely at this image you may be able to see tourists 10 miles away on the south rim. But as they say, sometimes getting there is half the fun.

Getting to the north rim of the Grand Canyon from Sin City involves going north into Arizona, then further north into Utah, and then south back into Arizona. There’s only one road into the park and the closest campground with water, electric and sewer hookups is 40 miles north of the park. We could have roughed it and stayed closer, but who wants to live without water, electric and sewer hookups. No cable TV though, but the wifi on my smart phone is working okay.

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I’m just going to throw in some random pretty canyon pictures while I regale you with my observations of the north rim.

The drive from the campground to the park, although 40 miles, went through some very pretty forests and meadows. Our first surprise was the herd of bison grazing along the road. We didn’t stop to take pictures since everyone knows what a bison looks like. but the story is interesting. In 1905 a local cattleman thought crossing bison with beef cattle would produce better meat. (He was ahead of his time because beefalo came along years later.) So he moved a herd of bison to the area that was already cattle range and which eventually became the park entrance, and told the animals to go at it. It didn’t work and the effort failed. The bison, however, apparently liked the grass, so they stayed, and multiplied.

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Now there’s a herd of about 300 (and growing) bison in the park. (Not in the canyon—bison are not good climbers.) The National Park Service considers the bison an invasive species since they didn’t exist there naturally, and claim the bison’s big feet are messing up the meadow.  Watch out bison!

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The other surprise was that , even though it takes hours to get to the north rim from pretty much anywhere, there were a lot of tourists here. Not as many as on the south rim, to be sure, but lots of tourists just the same.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned the heat we’ve experienced in this swing through the west. Well, the north rim is quite a bit higher than the surrounding countryside and the temperature is much more pleasant. It went down to 59 last night, so it was the first night in about a month we didn’t need the air conditioner to get a good night’s sleep. But we did need an extra blanket.

Just to be sure we don’t get too comfortable, we’re heading to a campground near Sedona tomorrow and the forecast temperature is 108.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I’m a Winnah!!!

Went to Bally’s last night to see a show. We played the penny slots. I won $100+. Whoo, hoo!!!.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Catching Up

We’ve been off-line for a while, so its time to get back to writing. After visiting Sequoia National Park we decided to see more big trees. So we went to the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park.

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I thought this particular dead sequoia was interesting because you can walk through it standing up. That experience provides a good perspective on the enormity of these giant trees. I’m not going to add any more tree pictures here because, they all tend to look the same. The only way to really experience these trees is to visit them, but only do it if you want to appreciate how insignificant humans are in the scale of living things.

We then set off in search of Kings Canyon. Now, you would think this would be easy, since we were in Kings Canyon National Park. But 96% of the two parks combined is wilderness. That means no roads. In fact, the week before we visited a lone hiker fell and was badly injured somewhere is Kings Canyon. To survive, he ate bugs and drank what water he could find. He basically crawled to a point where he could be rescued, and all ended reasonably well.

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This may be an image of Kings Canyon. We were off on some side road in the park, and there wasn’t a sign saying “Kings Canyon Kodak Point” and the park map was somewhat vague. So for our purposes, this is a picture of Kings Canyon and I dare anyone to challenge me on this.

The visit to these parks was a respite from the incredible heat. As mentioned earlier, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are at 7000 feet and above, so the temperature when we visited was in the 70s. Back down closer to sea level we haven’t seen high temperatures lower than 100 to 1007 degrees in more than two weeks. As a northeastern boy, that’s been a bit hard to deal with.

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Which brings us back to the California drought. These next few images were lifted from web sites (so sue me) because when we saw stuff like this I didn’t think it was safe to stop along the road to take pictures. Back east we hear a lot about the drought. But its really in the abstract. When you’re here and see nearly empty reservoirs, it sort of hits you in the face. This is really bad. Another abstract idea is that California provides a great deal of the produce consumed by Americans from coast to coast.

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But you’ve got to drive through the central valley to realize what that really means. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of square miles of farms growing pretty much every crop we eat or feed to livestock. Fruit, nuts, lettuce, squash, corn, tomatoes, peppers, grapes (can’t forget the grapes) – you get the idea. But what can’t be expressed in words or a few pictures is the enormity of the potential problem.

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All of these crops need water to grow. Massive irrigation projects feed the farms, but the water is disappearing. Add to that the battle between the cities and the farmers over the use of what water still exists, you can appreciate the enormity of the issue. California has just invoked water conservation measures, which seem quite weak and maybe too late. For example, when you water your lawn with a hose you must use a nozzle that shuts off. How about no lawn watering? How about no car washing? I guess they’re waiting for things to get really bad to get serious.

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We saw some farms, like this vineyard, that have just dried up and died. We also saw lots of farms still hanging on and producing.

So far, the impact to the rest of the country has been higher food prices, but if this continues there’s a real potential for massive food shortages.

On a happier note, we left California by driving through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas. The high today is expected to be 108, but its supposed to get really hot later in the week.DSC_0525

This is an image of the fountain at the Wynn Hotel. I guess there’s no fear of a drought in Nevada. (In reality we’ve been told the water is recirculated, but somehow the appearance of wasted water offends me.)

Tonight we’re going to see a show at Bally’s complete with topless showgirls. Hey, it was Penny’s idea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hot in California

First, a little catching up. We managed to get the truck fixed the next day and got back on the road. I’ve been absent from this blog because our next stop didn’t include wi fi, and my cell phone couldn’t make a data connection. After the truck repair we visited my cousin Barbara at an equestrian center owned by her daughter. Great place, they even have a few RV spots, so we hooked up there and had a great visit. The horse ranch is in the bustling metropolis of Copperopolis, CA in Calaveras County. This is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s very close to where Mark Twain wrote the story about the jumping frog contest.

By the way, on the way to Copperopolis we passed by Shasta Lake. I didn’t take any pictures, but if there was ever any doubt about the seriousness of the California drought, one look at the lake removed any question. The lake is now a puddle.

We’ve had 100 degree temperature every day for about a week. When we arrived at our current campground it was so hot that some of the electrical equipment in our trailer overheated and shut down. The air conditioner struggled so much that I thought it was fried, but overnight it was able to cool things down. The local TV weather dudes say tomorrow will be cooler – 98 degrees. Seriously!

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Today we toured Sequoia National Park and at 7,000 feet of elevation the temperature was about 30 degrees cooler than down at the campground. This is the home of the giant Sequoia trees and some very rugged mountains. In 2009, on our first west coast trip, we visited Redwood National Park which is located on the northern California coast. Since then I’ve wondered about the difference between Redwoods and Sequoias. Turns out that Redwoods are taller, but Sequoias are bigger in terms of cubic feet.

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This tree is the General Sherman and is believed to be the biggest tree on earth. You can get a sense of scale if you can see the guy sitting on the fence next to the tree. This tree is 2200 years old.

To get to General Sherman we walked down a steep 1/2 mile trail. Unfortunately we also had to walk back up the trail to return to our truck. The trail is at the 7000 foot mark, so it was a bit harder going up than it was going down. Please don’t mention this to my cardiologist.