Roosevelt Lake, Tonto National Forest – Mar 17-19

Visiting in Tonto National Forest requires a pass.  The passes cover camping, day use and access to the National Monument Cliff Dwellings ($6/day, or $3 with the Senior Pass) and you can purchase them almost anywhere before you get to the forest.  We stayed at the Cholla Campground, a very large campground with (Yay!) solar showers, restrooms, trash, water and dump stations.  With great views of the surrounding mountains and access to Roosevelt lake, it was the perfect place to spend a few days.

The weather was changeable, rainy with the occasional thunder/lightening show while we were there.  I think Lord Voldemort lives over this hill.

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We visited Roosevelt Dam

In the top 12 best bridges in the US, Roosevelt Dam Bridge is the longest 2-lane, single-span, something-something bridge in the US.  The bridge was built after modern day traffic became too much for the road that used to run on top of the dam.

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Tonto National Monument – Cliff Dwellings

For once, I remembered my National Parks passport book and got a stamp for the Cliff Dwellings!  It was a long walk to the lower Cliff Dwellings (about a mile with 350 foot elevation gain) but well worth it.  Despite some modern day damage, the cliff dwellings still tell a powerful story of how these early people lived.

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The first Rattlesnake of the season – and what a beauty!

Julie and Scruffy encounter the first rattlesnake of the year.  The young (3 foot) snake came into their campsite clearly intending on crossing it – rattling and advancing when they didn’t get out of the way fast enough!  By the time I got over to see it, the snake was disappearing into the bushes between our campsites.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera; it was a beautiful snake (I don’t really like snakes – but pretty is pretty!).  I’ve never seen a snake that shade of yellow/gold;  the diamond pattern was clear as were the characteristic Western Diamondback dark brown/white bands near the tail and an impressively long rattle.  We were fortunate to catch a glimpse – and no one got hurt so it was a win-win!

The end to another perfect day

Imagine this sunset wrapping around almost the entire sky (not quite 360 but close).

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Lost Dutchman State Park – Mar 15-16; my first jumping cholla experience!


Plans change due to too much beauty

As rigs were pulling out after the Escapade rally, I noticed that one of our neighbors had left a chalk for their double axle tires (not a cheap thing to replace).  By polling all the surrounding remaining neighbors, I got enough information about the couple (All I could remember was their first names and their next camping destination), to track down a phone number for them.  They were going to be at Lost Dutchman State Park for awhile as camp hosts, and I had planned on going right by there on my way to Roosevelt Lake and the Tonto National Monument. 


So, we traveled to Lost Dutchman, planning on dropping off the chalk and continuing on.  But, when we got to the park, it was beautiful; nestled at the base of the Superstition Mountains, this is a great campground – but very popular and almost impossible to get campsites.  Unless, you get there early and snag a spot in the overflow area.  Now, sometimes overflow camping is just a spot in a parking lot – but here, the spots are just as nice as everything else.  And, it was so nice that we stayed 2 days.


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The very bad Jumping Cholla

Scruffy did not know about Jumping Cholla;  he does now!  We were walking back from the visitor center just enjoying the scenery when suddenly Scruffy was screaming and whirling about like a crazed thing.  We’re not sure exactly what happened but Scruffy had a large Cholly part stuck on his back and a smaller one stuck in his bleeding nose and mouth – and he was just hysterically jumping, running and twisting about.  It took Julie several tries to bravely grab him and quiet him down – and in doing so, she got a small Cholla part stuck in the back of her hand.

Fortunately, Scruffy calmed down as soon as Julie contained him - and he was very stoic as I used first the leash, and then the pliers on my pocket multi-tool to remove the Cholla parts from his body and then Julie’s.  I got as many spines out as I could with pliers – it took Julie 2 days to get the rest out with tweezers.  Both of us (probably Scruffy too) had lots of very fine hair-like spines on our hands and wrists – difficult to impossible to get out even with tweezers.  Poor Scruffy, he was just learning to trust us touching his back end when this had to happen!


Sometimes the ‘wee lad’ gets a ride – after a long walk, if there are too many lurking Cholla’s or if the area looks ‘snakey’.


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The day ends peacefully


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Back to my trailer


During the Escapade rally, Julie and I had doubled up in her trailer to save on a second registration.

I had left my car and trailer in a friend’s driveway.  I assumed that I would have plenty of power to keep the fridge running for the week.  I assumed wrong (ran out of propane) and the contents of my fridge had to be tossed (fortunately, I hadn’t left a lot of stuff in the fridge). 

Anyway, I set things straight, bought some new groceries and then drove over to my cousin’s for a visit.  Unfortunately, the only place I could park my trailer near her house was not level and, again, the fridge pooped out. (bang-head!! always level the trailer!!).  So, there went my second set of groceries – an expensive lesson learned.  What was almost worse was driving away from Tucson and it’s great grocery stores (Trader Joes, Whole Foods, etc.) and not having the fridge cool enough to load it up with fresh food!

I had a lovely visit with my cousin though.  We visited the San Xavier Mission – a really lovely, old mission just south of town.  It still serves a very active Native American community; they were having a Pow-Wow the day we were there (I just barely resisted the fry bread).  The mission has undergone major restoration in recent years and the colors on the inside are once-again vibrant.  The outside is landscaped with native planting – like a botanical garden.  I love the peaceful atmosphere of old missions and really enjoyed San Xavier.


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Red Cross Disaster Training – Mar 13-14


The DOVES sponsor several days of Red Cross Disaster Response Training.

Within the Escapee RV club, there are many affinity groups.  One group, the DOVES, are members of the Red Cross who specialize in Disaster Response volunteering and sometimes deploy to disaster sites in their RV’s – cheaper for the Red Cross, and much more comfortable for the volunteers.  Working with the local Tucson chapter of the Red Cross, 3 days of disaster response training was provided.  The Tucson Red Cross chapter was very nice with a great facility.


I signed up for the initial classes and am now certified to be a Shelter volunteer, which means I can set up a cot in an emergency dormitory, or help disaster victims get registered at the shelter, or help serve meals.  Eventually, I’ll get more training and hopefully be able to use more of my technical skills in helping out at disasters.


Going to the training was a bit more of a sacrifice than I’d originally thought – I found that there was a dressage show at the fairgrounds that same weekend!  I got to meet a couple of the trainers and see some horses – but missed the show.  Drat.

Escapade Rally in Tucson, AZ – March 7-13


The BIGGEST rally I’ve ever attended!

Over 850 trailers registered to stay at the Pima County Fairgrounds, a couple hundred registered from surrounding campgrounds and another couple of hundred registered as walk-ins.  Mostly dry camping, we stayed in the Solar, generator-free area.  The volunteers packed us in pretty tight (I’m surprised that they found room for everyone).  The solar area started just after the full-hookup area and we had streets and back alleys.

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We were, by far, among the smallest rigs in attendance.  I think I counted 4 Casitas and a handful of smaller Class B’s,


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There were lots of vendors, seminars, and information booths for Escapee campgrounds, area chapters, etc.  Technomadia, Geeks-on-Tour, and others gave some great technology based tutorials.

I volunteered one morning as a golf-cart driver, roaming around the various camping areas and the fairground buildings giving rides to anyone who needed a lift.  I had a blast!  Met lots of folks and really learned my way around the fairgrounds.  I managed not to hit anything (well, I might have nudged a sign at the bloodmobile), or bounce anyone out of my cart.  In return, I got a piece of ‘flair’ (remember the movie Office Spaces?) – a volunteer pin for my name badge lanyard.  I was woefully under-dressed compared to some people though – folks apparently accumulate pins and various badges over time.  If the gal in the next picture gets any more, I’m afraid she might tip over!  She was a lot more cheerful than this picture suggests!


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And, of course, the sunsets were marvelous!


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Tucson AZ – for the Escapees Rally!

First on the agenda is to stash my trailer

The Escapees rally charges registration by the trailer (over 900 rigs have registered!!) but each trailer can have 2 adults – so Julie and I are doubling up and will be sharing her trailer for the week (2 adults, 1 dog, 1 ornery cat – oh my!). 
Julie has a friend in Tucson who thought my trailer would fit in her driveway – so that was our first stop.  After a little creative hand waving, I got backed up her rather steep and long driveway to a perfect spot.  We spent a lovely afternoon with Mary in her peaceful, shady garden while Scruffy and Mary’s dog (a Rhodesian ridgeback/Labrador mix) played in the yard.  Chaco was very playful and yet very gentle with Scruffy.
That night, I heard a loud bump on the top of the trailer and then the pitter pat of feet.  Looking through my ceiling fan vent was Mary’s very large yellow tabby cat!  I was reminded of the old ‘Incredible shrinking man’ movie when the housecat was stalking the shrinking man who took shelter inside a dollhouse.  I felt like I was in a dollhouse with a giant cat peering down through the vent.

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The next day we took off in Julie’s trailer to see Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

Sabino Canyon is a very pretty area for hiking; no private cars are allowed but a shuttle runs up and down  the canyon and you can get on/off at stops to hike or enjoy the views.  Worth a lot more time than we had to give it on this trip.

This crested saguaro was spectacular!  No one really knows why this mutation happens – but it’s pretty cool.

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The cactus is beginning to bud out and bloom.  We saw a lot of barrel cactus starting to bloom.

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Tomorrow, we drive over to the rally to get settled and pick up our registration materials.  Should be a fun week!!

A day in Mexico


Algadones is just a short hop from Yuma

You can’t spend time in Yuma without seeing a ton of billboards for services provided just across the border in Algadones.  Primarily, dental, vision and prescription medication (without needing the prescription).  Many of the providers are US trained and have state-of-the-art clinics.  So, with Julie needing a dental cleaning and me due to run out of my cholesterol med before returning home (and having received a run-around of hassle from my on line RX ordering place for the last couple of months) – we decided to give it a try. 

Everyone says ‘don’t drive’ – so we didn’t.

There is a Native American run huge parking facility right at the border crossing.  Crossing into Mexico is very easy – just follow the signs and walkways and go through one unstaffed turnstile and there you are!  Coming back is a bit more formal.

The streets are lined with nothing but dental offices, opticians, and pharmacies (there are a few restaurants and I did see one pet grooming business.  The sidewalks are tunnels of sidewalk vendors selling the usual tourist trinkets.  Everywhere are men offering help and business cards just in case you didn’t do any research ahead of time and needed a referral.  We did need some help in navigating our way to the dentist Julie had selected – street signs are few and far between.

We had lunch at a pretty fun restaurant.  There was live music, lots of sun (or shade, depending on preference) and our waitress was excellent!


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I sketched while Julie was at the dentist (there was a nice little city park right across the street) and then we made our way back to the border crossing (stopping at a pharmacy to pick up meds ($6.95 for 60 days worth!)

We joined a long line of tourists returning home – but the line moved quickly.  Through another turnstile, this time staffed by border guards with uniforms and guns.  Then the line split into 4 customs stations; we put our passports into a machine reader and then handed them to the customs agent who asked us a couple of questions before letting us pass.  It didn’t take very long for us; a friend reported a wait of about an hour when she went through.


A fun day – it was definitely Mexico (the sidewalks were certainly not ADA compliant) but most signs, prices were in English and certainly all the service staff spoke excellent English.