Parker Dam

Sorry for that last post. It is so dissapointing to waste time because a really poor piece of productivity software. Google should be ashamed of this effort.  

This is what I was trying to say.  

Parker Dam
The Parker Dam was built between 1934 and 1941 to create Lake Havasu.  Lake Havasu exists only to supply water to Los Angeles, Phoenix and the the irrigation users down stream.  Almost no water in the Colorado River gets south of the US border.
The Parker Dam is the tallest dam in the world.  From the base of the dam on bedrock to the top of the dam it is 320 ft high.  The bottom of Lake Havasu is 235 ft above the base of the dam.  Most of the dam is hidden below the bottom of the lake.
When water is released into the river downstream of the dam electricity is produced.
The dam has a nice looking art deco style. The equipment gives its age away. Big plates and rivets. This ancient crane lifts flood gates.
All of the water is committed to Los Angeles or Phoenix or irrigation under long term contracts to buy the water to pay for the dam and the pumping systems. Water is pushed up hill almost 200 ft from this pumping station through three 60″ steel pipes to a tunnel through the mountain to several more pumping stations, pipelines and tunnels on its way to Los Angeles.
The water going to Phoenix goes entirely underground to meet demands of environmentalists.  How bad could a water spill be?  I guess it was the visual impact that was the issue.
The water level in Lake Havasu is almost constant varying within a two foot range.  This is made possible by draining Lake Mead above Boulder Dam near Las Vegas and from Lake Powell above Glen Canyon Dam before the Grand Canyon.  Today the water level in both of these lakes is the more than 100 ft below normal levels.  Lake Mead is at 39% of capacity.  Lake Powell is at 51% of capacity.  This represents a shortage due to the current drought of hundreds of trillions of gallons of water.  In 2015 they will release about 3 trillion gallons of water from Lake Powell through the Grand Canyon into Lake Mead to help rebalance the reservoirs.  This 3 trillion gallons of water will lower the water level in Lake Powell by less than three feet. Global warming at work.
Lake Mead shows its “bath tub rings” from high water levels from the 1960’s. In the next ten to twenty years long submerged historic ruins will emerge to be explored again.  But there will be little water left for Los Angeles or Phoenix or the the irrigated farms that grow so much of the produce we take for granted.

We drove across the Parker Dam past the single Homeland Security guy protecting the water supply for Los Angeles and Phoenix and down the National Scenic Byway (really?) towards Parker.  It is an almost endless mass of manufactured vacation homes, hundreds and hundreds exactly the same, on narrow lots with about 15 feet between each. When there aren’t the tacky vacation homes there are almost as many storage unit buildings.  All of the people who buy a luxury vacation home need some place to store all the stuff they don’t want to haul back and forth.
The only really interesting thing along this side of the river was the dozens of wild burros.  They are the descendents of burros abandoned long ago.  They go where they want to go. If you aren’t careful they will nose in to your life.
This one was wheezing and snorting.  I don’t know if it was sick or it was normal.

He was looking intently at us hoping for a handout.  No dice.

That’s about it for the Parker Dam story.  On the other side of the river in Arizona you can drive your off-road capable vehicle almost anywhere.  On the California side you can’t drive off-road anywhere.
It is off-road we go, in Arizona.
More later.
Roger and Susan.

Google Blogger is a Giant Piece of Crap!

Google Blogger is Junk.

I just spent about an hour and half working on this post and the idiots at Google who wrote this crummy app allowed all of it to just disappear.  It is the worst app on the iPad I have ever used. I am absolutely convinced that this behavior is purposefully built into the iPad app just to piss off Apple users.  Every time you add a picture the iPad keyboard disappears.  I don’t see any way to move this blog to another platform based on the way Google has it structured.  If you try to do this on a PC you have to have a Google Plus account and the only way to add photos is to upload your photos to Google.  If you are ever thinking about doing a blog don’t use this piece of junk on any platform.

Parker, AZ. 3/1 – 3/12/2015

Parker is on the Colorado River right across from California, about 30 miles down river from the Parker Dam which creates Lake Havasu home of the transplanted London Bridge. While Prescott was at 5400 ft elevation Parker sits at about 450 ft. It is hot even in the winter. In the summer it is crazy hot.

We were going to stay at Castle Rock Shores Campground and meet fellow Foretravel owners Brad and Phyllis Metzger there. Brad sent me an email and said they had moved to the La Paz County Campground because the water was really bad at Castle Rock. So we adjusted on the fly.  La Paz County Campground does not take reservations so we were just hoping to get in. They do have about a dozen overflow sites with power and a large dry camp area with no connections for those waiting.  We got to La Paz at about 2 PM. We weren’t even out of the coach yet and there was another Foretravel owner, Barry Witherow, there to greet us.  I didn’t know he was there but he knew who we were. We went into the office and got the last spot available in the campground. It was at the end of a row at an intersection of roads, maybe not ideal but it was probably twice the size of most sites. In the end it turned out to be a very nice site. The guy next to us was from BC, Canada but he was not there. He had gone home because of some family medical emergency and left his trailer there. He was paid up into the future and was coming back. Monthly rates here with water and 50 amp electric are about $10 a day plus actual electric use. For us that would have been another $2 or 3 bucks. On a weekly basis including electric it was $19 a day. You can stay for up to 6 months. There are a couple dozen sites right on the river with no hookups at all for even less. Most of these folks have big solar setups and use generators a bit. Barry was down in this area, pretty nice.

The park is right on the river.  Some sites have cabanas, they call them ramadas here for more $. And beach.
There are lots of boats that go by especially on the weekend. Down river from here there are many very large homes on the river, all with docks and boats.
Fast boats. Pontoon boats. Ski boats. There used to be fish in the river but some sort of invasive species of mussels has depleted most of the food so there are not many fish left.
There is a bar and restaraunt at the boat launch at one end of the park. The Pirates Den. We had lunch there out on the deck a couple times. Food was good.
The water here is not very good. It is very hard, tastes terrible and is salty. Our water treatment plant got a good workout. The softener is good for about 750 gallons before it gets regenerated (2 lbs of table salt in the hole and run water through it for 20-30 minutes). It does a good job af softening the water. We have an 80 micron flushable filter, a pressure regulator, another finer filter, a charcoal filter and the water softener before water goes into the coach or our 105 gallon fresh water tank and then another water filter on the drinking water spigot in the kitchen. So we had clear, soft water but it still had a slight salt taste. They sold salt free drinking water in the park for 25¢/gallon.
The ground is loaded with salt and alkali deposits.  It rained the day we got there and for a while in the morning the next day.  As the ground dried up the salt and alkali leeched up and turned everything

an ugly white and yellow.  You would think water would just disappear in the desert but the ground is so hard the water will sit there for a couple days.  The surface turns to muck and takes several days to dry out.

Brad is a 78 year old mostly retired farmer from Virginia. He is on his fourth Foretravel. He and Phyllis have put on about 250,000 miles on their coaches. Their current coach is a 2010, 45′, 4 slide Phenix with everything imaginable on and in it.  They travel about 6-7 months a year and have put about 75,000 miles on this coach. Brad is a big off-road fan.  He likes to follow any trail anywhere.  He especially likes sand dunes.  Lots of both of those in this area.
He just got a new toy as he calls them before they left in January.  He already has over 1000 miles on it. It is a four seat Can-Am turbo charged Maverick X. It has lots of power, very forgiving suspension, everything a boy needs in his toys.
We did some off-road adventures.  More about them later.
Roger and Susan


Prescott, AZ 2/27-3/1/2015

Our plans were to head from McDowell Mountain to Parker over on the Colorado River.  Judy and Bruce added a wrinkle to that plan.  After their conference in Scottsdale they wanted to spend a day in Prescott and then a couple days in Sedona.  So we decided to join them in Prescott.

On our way to Prescott, we went to Surprise, AZ in the NW corner of the Phoenix metro area where our friend Jennifer Lusk was staying with her friend Melanie for a few months during the winter. They live in a retirement community where golf carts are as common as cars.  We drove right into this maze of winding streets, parked next to Melanie’s house and joined them for a tasty lunch. It was nice to see them. And then on to Prescott.

Prescott is an old town, mostly mining then, mostly tourist now.  It is the third largest metropolitan area in Arizona behind Phoenix and Tucson.  It has that old west feel, a big central square with the brick county courthouse in the middle (we saw a lot of those in Texas.) It was a little confusing to get around, the highway going through town is labled North and South but it goes East and West. 

We stayed in a campground called Point of Rocks RV Park. It was right at the top of a rock mountain. This is a family owned campground. They have been here since 1978 and have kept it in good shape. It is always amazing to us that we can get the coach into these places. It is much more maneuverable than most folks would think.

Around the rocks.
Up a steep hill.

And there we are, high above Prescott.

And back in our cold weather gear.  A major storm was coming in from the west with lots of moisture. Significant snow was forecast for Sedona and 15-20″ for Flagstaff and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  

Big rocks, big views.

We met Judy and Bruce downtown and walked around the town square, in and out of just about every store and then over to a really nice spot for dinner. There was some pretty neat stores, some really boring stores and most were just stores.  I don’t do well ambling around in most stores. It doesn’t agree with my back. I can walk at a steady pace for several miles without any problem or work at Habitat all day. Maybe it is a head thing sending the wrong messages to my back. Misery likes company.

Dinner was great. Too much good food and then desert. It was nice to see Judy and Bruce. We will see them again this summer.

The next morning they headed to Sedona and the snow. We were going to go north and then west and then south to Parker.  There was snow up there.  So we went back south towards Phoenix and then west to Parker.  It was about 20 miles difference either way.  It was raining heading south and then west.  Better than snow. And in the 80’s in Parker.

Parker is on the Colorado River right across from California, about 30 miles down river from the Parker Dam which creates Lake Havasu.  

More later.  

Roger and Susan

The Heard Museum 2/26/2015

Everyone we asked said that we should go to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  It is a museum of South West native American history and culture.  We had one day with Judy and Bruce.  We thought we might be able to get through the Heard Museum and then the Botanical Gardens.  We had heard that the Heard Museum wasn’t very large and wouldn’t take too long to see.  But we decided to go to the Heard and see how it went.  If there was time left at the end of the day maybe we could go for a walk in the desert near our campsite for our botanical hit.

We got there about 10.  There was a docent led tour of the non-permanent exhibits at 11 and a docent led tour of the permanent exhibits at 12.  We went on those.  There was way too much to see in these walk-by tours and way too much that wasn’t even mentioned.  So after a nice lunch we went back for more detail.
When we walked into the museum there was an undulating tile mosaic sculpture hanging on an outside wall.  It was about 5 ft tall and more than 20 ft long.  It was on a concrete backing about 3 inches thick and made in sections.
This kind of stuff just fascinates me.  All of the different colors and textures together make something quite visually stunning. It represents all of the layers in the earth we have seen in AZ.
There was a lot of very amazing sculpture inside too.
This horse head sculpture in front of a tan wall with dappled sunlight was very cool.  It looked like this for only a moment and then the light changed.
Simple lines with minimal detail show everyday life that was common to everyone.
Buffalo played a big part in all aspects of life. This buffalo was an abstract, smooth polished bronze on the other side.
This depiction of two Apache Warriors was interesting in the use of patina on bronze to get the different colors. 
Pottery was not art a few hundred years ago, it was how the native americans stored water and food and carried seed and in the carving and decoration, preserved history through story.
Today it is an art form and there are celebrated artists from different families and pueblos. Beautiful.
Do you know what the story is here?  I don’t, but it must have been important to the story teller to have taken the time to tell it in this way.

After a long day of art, there was still enough energy left for smiles.  Aren’t they cute?

To my way of thinking there was enough at this museum for two full days.  
We went back to our campsite and went for a walk in the desert out to a big wash where yellow flowers were blooming.  We had a picnic supper outside as the sun was setting and then went into the coach for desert. I was under some intestinal distress from something I ate a day or two earlier. It was tough not feeling 100%.  It took another week for this to pass.
The next day Judy and Bruce went off to their conference and we set off for Prescott.  We would meet them there in two days for an afternoon and evening. Then they were off to Sedona and we would be heading for Parker on the Colorado River.
More later.
Roger and Susan 

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, 2/20/2015 – 2/27/2015

Phoenix is in Maricopa County.  The county has several regional parks, four have campgrounds. 

McDowell Mountain Regional Park is NE of Phoenix about 6 miles past Fountain Hills and has more than 22,000 acres of desert and mountain terrain to play in.  The campground is in a basin at about 2,000 ft elevation surrounded by mountains.  There was one day when we got some showers, a few days with big clouds rolling by and rain in the distance but mostly it was blue sky.  
We had a really nice campsite looking out on Superstition Mountain.

That is Weaver’s Needle to the left and Superstition Mountain on the right with the sharp vertical face. The park has many miles of hiking trails, most can also be used with bikes.  Lots of fun riding through the desert on your bike.
Susan’s brother Frank and his wife Pattie have a home in Rio Verde about four miles further out from McDowell Mountain Park where they spend much of the winter.  So we got to go over their house, check out the neighborhood and go to dinner with them one day at the golf clubhouse.  Rio Verde is a senior community of nice homes around golf courses. There are no stores, no schools, no gas stations.  Everything they need is in Fountain Hills.  It is called Fountain Hills because they have a pond with a giant fountain in it that goes off once an hour.  We could see it from our camp site.  Somebody said it shoots higher than the Eiffel Tower.
We went off hiking in the desert with them one day to a recently discovered landslide that happened thousnds of years ago, probably before any humans were in this area.  The landslide was at least half of a granite mountain that slid down making a rubble field more than a mile long, nearly a half mile wide and several hundred feet thick.  After so much time had passed it looked pretty much like everything else until some geology student stubled on it and a light bulb went off.  
Sort of that Blues Brothers look.  The trail was just shy of two miles each way and plenty of up and down.  There were plants starting to bloom.

We came across a Gila Monster, a poisonous slow moving lizard.  This one was about 16″ lpng.

It is a good thing they aren’t too fast.  These are very slow metabolism desert dwellers.  They eat about three meals a year, each up to 1/2 their body weight.  The saliva of the Gila Monster has been found to be effective in helping to control type 2 diabetes.  The enzymes that make this happen have been isolated and are being synthesized to make drugs.

After our grueling hike 😉 we headed off to the Greasewood Flats Bar.  It is a cross between biker bar, cowbow bar, tourist destination and outdoor one man band venue.
You go into a building with money stapled to every surface to order, pay and get a number.  Some time later when your number is up (that sounds wrong) you go in another building and get your food.  It was pretty tastey.  
This place has been there forever but this spring is it’s final days.  The wrecking ball of progress is approaching to tear everything down to make way for lots more expensive homes.
Water is very scarce in this area.  Virtually no one has lawns, just desert gardens.  Scottsdale is a well to do suburb.  On the news the other night they reported that there were several thousand homes in Scottsdale with monthly water bills over $500. That seems like a lot to me, homes and money.
It was nice to see Frank and Pattie.  They have been after us to visit for several years and we finally made it.
My sister Judy and brother-in-law Bruce are coming to visit us on Wednesday the 25th.  Actually they are in Phoenix for a Lymphoma Conference on the 27th. So we get to see them for a day in Phoenix and then for another day up in Prescott.
More later.
Roger and Susan

Saguaro National Park

2/14 – 2/20/2015

A short way north of the Diamond J Campground through the Tucson Mountain Park is the western section of the Saguaro National Park.  We stopped there a couple days earlier to get maps and hiking suggestions. We had two places in mind, both off a 4WD unimproved road.  The first was an old mine trail that led up into the higher ground.  This trail then connected to a long cross country trail that followed the ridges by way of a long series of switchbacks.  We went as far as the switchbacks where the trail got significantly steeper and the sun was hot.

The saguaro are everywhere.  It is like a forest of them, I imagine they are as close together as the environment will support, maybe every 30-40 ft.  Pretty surprising in an arid landscape of sand, gravel and rock.  Something seems to be growing everyhere in between as well.  It may look bleak but a closer look and the desert is a vibrant growing community.  

Wa have spent a lot of time in the desert and have come to appreciate what it offers.  Coming from Minnesota it seems so stark but it is actually quite nice.
The saguaro can live for 150 years, get as tall as 70 ft although the largest one known today is about 45 ft, and more than 3 ft in diameter. They may or may not grow arms and many grow arms on arms.  Arms start to grow when the saguaro is about 75 years old.  More ends means more flowers which means more seeds which is how the saguaro propogate.
White flowers on the ends ot the arms and a red fruit below. Desert blooms are incredible.
When it rains the saguaro sucks up as much water as possible and stores it in the green fleshy outer layer which is protected by sharp, stiff spines. The saguaro swell up as they absorb water.  The pleated outside layer makes that easier.
You might be wondering as I was, how these stand up. What keeps them from just falling over? 
The inside of the saguaro is a bundle of wooden trunks connected by fiberous tissue. These trunks are an inch to and inch and a half in diameter and the bundle is most of the inside of the saguaro.
This one is dead and you can see the core where the fleshy outer layer has come off.

The cores are all interconnected but there is space between them.  The dead saguaro are collected and the wooden poles that make up the core are used for poles in roof structures and fences and just about everything that could use something like these.

The saguaro also provide nesting sites for a dozen or more species of birds.  Two bird species will peck a hole through the outer layer and make a nest.  When they are done the other species move in. Some saguaro had a dozen holes in them.
Probably more than you ever wanted to know about saguaro, right?   Learning about the plants and animals and the geology and natural history of the desert makes it just that much more interesting to us.
Our other destination was Signal Hill.  It is at the end of a half mile triail that was built by the CCC back in the 1930’s.  They want you to stay on the trail so they put up signs.

We didn’t see any which was OK but there are much smaller and even more dangerous scorpions out here.  Didn’t see any of those either except in displays at the visitor’s center. 

Signal Hill is a high hill that can be seen for a long way.  They probably built signal fires on it at one time.  The main attraction today is to see the petroglyphs left by the Hohokam people, who inhabited this area from 500 to 1100 A.D.   The blue sky is pretty blue as well.

These were scratched into the rock surface. It is really amazing that they survived this long and have not been vandalized 
The signs at the top of Signal Hill said that no one is sure why they are here or what they mean or what their significance is.  They were just interesting and reading about the people who were here long ago is good enough for us. The climate here was much milder and wetter than it is now.  Most of the early people of AZ and NM were here in the same time frame. Most left in the 1100-1400 time frame most likely due to climate change and competition for food and water.
We have been in the Tucson area for almost a week.  We have met some wonderful Foretravelers. We have been here just enough to sample a few things.  This seems like an area where we could come back and spend much more time.
Off to NE of Phoenix to McDowell Mountain Regional Park in the next day or two.
More later.
Roger and Susan.