Winslow, AZ March 2019

We drove right by Winslow more than once over the years. And Meteor Crater as well. Both have been on our list of places to stop for a long time. Our camping spot was Homol’ovi State Park near Winslow. This state park preserves over 300 Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites from about 1260 to 1499 AD. Homol’ovi is a Hopi word meaning “place of the little hills”. This fertile area in the flood plain of the Little Colorado river let the inhabitants grow cotton, corn and squash and harvest many native plants as well. It was interesting to visit.

Winslow of course is famous for its Corner. (A Jackson Browne song done by the Eagles)

With a flatbed Ford.

They have made quite a thing about it including an entire wall, that is all it is, a wall.

On the other side of the wall is the Standing on the Corner Park. It has a small stage and hosts music events from time to time.

The railroad goes through Winslow with a couple of busy mainline tracks. And the Amtrak train stops twice a day at one of the few remaining Fred Harvey Hotels, La Posada.

It has a long history leading up to its restoration back to a fine hotel and the Amtrak station.

The trains stop right here and passengers can get on or get off and walk right into the hotel.

The hotel was a Mary Colter design right down to the furniture. It is just beautiful.

Art work everywhere and very welcoming.

And fine dining in The Turquoise Room.

We had a black bean and corn soup with our lunch, actually two soups in one bowl.

Wonderful.

After all of that we got up the next morning to go see the Meteor Crater about 20 miles west of Winslow. It is not a National Park or monument or a State place it is privately owned and operated as a tourist site. It is designated as a Natural Landmark site. It is said to be one of the best preserved meteor impact sites on the planet and the first one recognized as an impact site. The characteristics of the site are the basis for characterizing impact sites today. There are now just over 200 known impact sites. There are surely many more, just not yet identified.

Daniel Barringer was a mining engineer who was sure that there was a massive blob of meteor buried beneath the crater. 25 years of digging lead to nothing except holes in the ground. In the meantime Barringer secured mineral rights and ownership of the crater and almost 100,000 acres of surrounding area. In the early days people would drive in on dirt roads from Highway 66 to take a look. Mrs Barringer did the time honored American thing and started charging admission. 25ยข. Today it is $18.

The Barringer family still owns all of the land and the crater. They lease all but the crater to a ranch company (that they own) to raise cattle and the crater to a company (that they own) that operates the Crater Visitor Center and Tours.

The meteor hit the earth about 50,000 years ago. It was a small iron meteor only 160 ft across but it was traveling at about 45,000 miles per hour and the impact was equivalent to 10 to 20 million tons of dynamite. The meteor vaporized on impact and created a crater about a mile across and 700 ft deep. It was like a deep underground explosion and much of the surface was lifted up, folded over and outward. Rocks and meteorite bits were blown as far as seven miles away. It is a huge hole in the ground but in the meteor impact scheme of things it is small.

Still a big hole. Down at the bottom are several mine shafts, a big boiler, a steam operated hoist. From the rim all of this equipment looks tiny.

And the white bit is part of a wing from a plane that crashed in the crater. The pilot and passenger survived. The rest of the airplane was cut up into chunks and dumped down the mine shafts.

We followed our leader along the crater rim and got lots of interesting details. It was a nice day for a mile or so walk. He said later in the summer winds can get very strong (as much as 100 mph) and afternoon storms generate lots of lightning.

We were glad we finally got to Winslow, to the famous corner and to what Billy Connolly described as what every American male wants to see, a big hole in the ground.

We are heading for Cochiti Lake COE park near Santa Fe.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ March 2019

You might be asking, “Were there dead horses?”. Not that we saw now but the owner of this ranch named it that after finding one when he bought it in the 1940s. There are live horses there today. For a small fortune you can go for a horseback ride.

The Dead Horse Ranch is along the Verde River and was one of the few that had water rights, a pretty important feature if the ranch was going to prosper and it did. They raised cattle and a family. In the 1970s the family donated the ranch to the state to become a state park. This is the same Verde River that flows through the valley at the base of McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

The park is on the outskirts of Cottonwood, AZ, a town of 12,000 between Prescott and Sedona. The plan was to stop here on our way to Winslow AZ and then over to Santa Fe. It turned out our friends Scott and Carol are campground hosts here for March, April and May. So we had a chance to see them as well.

Don’t they look official? We had dinner with them at their coach one night, Scott did a Boston Butt on his smoker grill. Their son and his family were there too. Lots of fun and energy with grandkids about. Another evening we went into Old Cottonwood for a supper and a stroll around the old town. It is always nice to see Scott and Carol.

The park has three lagoons (ponds) that were fun to ride our bikes around. One evening the late day light was good

Cottonwood exists because of the mining operations a couple thousand feet higher on the side of Cleopatra Hill in Jerome overlooking the Verde River Valley. Early explorations looked promising for copper. In the mid 1800s the first of the major mines began operation. The dangerous work and smelting operations didn’t keep more than 10,000 people from calling Jerome home by the 1920s. The first mines failed when the price of copper plummeted in the late 1800’s. New owners added a narrow gauge railroad from Prescott and better mining techniques. Another owner exploited a second copper deposit said to be one of the biggest ever found anywhere.

Over its 77-year life (1876 to 1953), this mine produced nearly 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc ore. The metals produced by United Verde and UVX, the other big mine in Jerome, were said to be worth more than $1 billion.

There are miles of tunnels under Jerome. Dynamite was used to open up new ore deposits. Eventually most of the Cleopatra hill side became unstable and much of Jerome slid down the hillside. The jail slid more than 250 ft down the slope. Fires were another frequent event. Much of the town burned down and was rebuilt over and over.

By the time the Hippies moved in the town was mostly a ghost town. By 2010 the population had rebounded to just over 400 people.

Today Jerome is a quaint tourist destination at the end of a very steep, winding and narrow road. More than 5000 ft elevation, lots of craft and gift shops, a museum, restaurants and a pretty good ice cream shop. I hope it stays as it is. There isn’t much room on the hillside to fill it up with the unappealing crowds, traffic and stores full of imported useless knick knacks.

A long way down to the valley below.

Everything is precariously perched on the hill.

Even the Bordello.

And the hippie vintage VW bus.

That is a good question. Look closely, Northern Sun Merchandising, Minneapolis, MN.

And a bit of an inside joke to just a few who can face up to it.

There was a street side local vendor selling her jewelry. This caught my eye.

From the valley at night Jerome is just a bunch of blinking lights.

We decided to take a drive up to Sedona. Lots of red rocks, stores with “Mystic” in their names, traffic congestion and crowds. Mostly a big giant tourist attraction, much bigger than is appealing to us.

The hardest choice was to turn around and go back (we never found a parking spot, didn’t try very hard) or continue on up through Oak Creek Canyon. We chose to press on to the proverbial winding road.

Looking back down the canyon from the top was better than looking at Sedona.

We got a selfie in at the top of the hill. Down the other side to I 17 and south back to Cottonwood. We had lunch at a new place in Cottonwood, sort of a 50s drive in.

A real chocolate malt, great onion rings and a couple good sandwiches in plastic baskets with checked paper. It was fun and good.

We really liked Deadhorse and Cottonwood and Jerome. This would be a great place to visit again and stay longer.

We are off to Winslow and the Meteor Crater.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

McDowell Regional Park, March 2019

Here are a couple last minute additions.

The Ocotillos are starting to bloom. The red flowers come out at the end of each stalk.

And then greens leaves along each stalk.

All of this seems to be happening in just a few days.

And the poppies are blooming in the middle of the campground.

The campground has two loops each with 40 camp sites. The sites are roomy and spaced far apart. We walked around both loops in the morning and one in the later afternoon and it was enough to get 10,000 steps

There is a playground between the two loops.

it has picnic tables, benches, sun shades and a giant slide disguised as a snake. There is a big spider climbing a rock.

And some desert sculpture as well.

Much of the rock in this area is granite and quartz. It doesn’t take long to find pretty good sized chunks of white quartz. One of the campground hosts turns it into art.

A coyote, road runner, a lizard and a scorpion.

Every day here was an interesting one, even the ones working on taxes. Lots to see, places to ride, places to walk. Time to just watch the sky, the clouds, the light and color.

Wondering if a thunderstorm is coming? No just clouds.

We have been here at McDowell Mountain three weeks, near Tucson for four weeks. We have been steadily increasing the time we stay at places we like. How well that feels depends on the place. There is always plenty to do right where we are. For the most part we go to places not in cities. There are always a few attractions in nearby cities we will go to see, local history and culture for example. We are not much for random shopping but it is very interesting to see the creativity and skill in things people create.

In eight years owning our Foretravel we have been in it as our home, wherever we have been, for more than three years. It is home and we are comfortable wherever we are.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, March 2019

We have had a few cool days and cold nights, even a couple below freezing but now it is in the 70s and once in a while in the 80s. Nights are usually in the 50s. Very comfortable.

Visits and Visitors

We went to see our friends John and Kathy Juelfs. They are full timers and have been spending the winters in an RV park in Apache Junction for the last few years. On the way over we stopped at B&B Farms and bought a couple dozen ready to eat Navel oranges and a couple grapefruits. We met them about five years ago in Nacogdoches. They were just retiring and buying a coach. No real prior RV history. They found a nice coach and were ready to set off. We (and others) thought they looked scared to death. They found their own way and are now happy campers. Somehow I forget to take any pictures.

We went over to Frank and Pattie‘s home in Rio Verde for dinner and laundry. Frank is Susan’s brother. They spend half of their time in AZ and half in MN. Soon maybe a bit more in AZ. Frank and I were busy talking about Verizon vs AT&T. Susan and Pattie were busy chatting about dinner things.

We had a nice dinner, thanks Pattie. Frank and I made plans to visit an AT&T store a couple days later.

We drove over to Surprise, AZ to see our friend Jennifer who moved down here last fall. Going from one side of Phoenix to the other is a long way. She has a very nice house in among lots of other seniors. Even with neighbors all around her back yard seemed pretty private. We brought oranges for her but she has a big productive orange tree herself so we ended up bringing home more oranges than we came with. OK with us. I am sorry, I went photo dead again here.

Another day we drove into downtown Phoenix, just a block or so from the Opera and the Heard Museum to see Richard and Susan Peck. They had just bought their Foretravel about four years ago when we met them at the Foretravel GrandVention in Columbus, Indiana. They were heading off into the undiscovered world of fulltiming in the RV and still working. Susan is still working full time now and they decided to plant their flag for a while in Phoenix, sell their coach and be landlubbers again. They were involved in a serious car crash in January which left both of them injured, Richard more seriously. After several orthopedic surgeries, a long time in the hospital and specialized care they are back at home with many months of rehab ahead.

There is a family owned Italian restaurant in their apartment building. We had a very nice lunch there and a gelato for dessert at the place next to the restaurant. Truly urban living. It was so nice to see them; see them smiling knowing what they have been through and have ahead. They are another part of our extended Foretravel community who have become good friends as well.

And Roger and Vicki Henry stopped over one day for a couple hours. They are from St Paul, down here on what seems to us a high speed multi-stop road trip. More their style than ours but nice to see them as well and for them to get a small taste of our life elsewhere.

My cousin and her husband Sandy and Claus came for a visit as well. They wanted to see where we live when we are elsewhere and what McDowell Mountain Park looks like. We had a great lunch that Susan prepared. They moved down here a year ago and managed to get through their first summer. It was really fun to see them. The Senior Cousins get together a couple times in MN for a brunch or lunch each year and through the extraordinary amount of chatting it is often hard to just get some one on one time. So this was a good time to just focus on the four of us. We appreciated the time we shared. (And no, Claus is not sleeping).

And finally Susan went over to see Jane, a long time Book Club friend who is down this way for the winter.

We laughed about all the people we have seen here. Next time we are telling no one we are coming. Except those we want to see. The list is above.

Being in the desert

Susan and I like being in the desert. It does not look like Minnesota or East Texas or West Texas (no place we have ever been looks like West Texas). It does not look like the Pacific NW. The desert in Tucson is different from the desert at McDowell Mountain and they are much different from the high desert of Santa Fe, NM.

This year at McDowell we have seen the plant life become more invigorated and green. The desert here actually looks green right now. The grasses and bushes are green. The cacti are full and plump with water. All along the road sides are blue lupine plants that remind us of the Texas Hill Country Blue Bonnets. And a week and a half ago just a few hundred feet higher elevation the gold-yellow poppies burst out.

This spot is about 4 miles from the campground heading NW toward the Pemberton Trail which is a big loop all around the park. I have been riding the trails out in the desert almost every day. It is lots of fun, lots of work going uphill in this direction. At this point in the picture I am about 400 ft higher than the campground. The good part is that it is mostly downhill on the way back. Lots of washes to ride through. The technical part of riding some of these challenges is a lot of fun to figure out.

There are now four distinct yellow flowering plants nearby. And just in the last day a magenta colored flower has popped up.

And in some areas some of the grasses are changing to much more reddish colors. Probably drying out.

The clouds come in and out, usually sunny during the day but there is always something to see if you are looking.

And another visitor, I wonder if they are just here in the winter too.

There is a pair of cardinals here that show up every day. They have a very distinct song compared to all the others here.

We would come back here anytime, next time probably a month.

Next heading – north to Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood, AZ

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

McDowell Mountain, February, 2019

McDowell Mountain Regional Park is part of the Maricopa County Park System. Several of their big regional parks have camping facilities with electric and water hookups. This is the third time we have been to McDowell Mountain.

It is a big park, almost 90,000 acres, 80 camp sites and 75 mikes of hiking and biking trails. Many of the trails are shared with horseback riders.

Every day here seems to be different.

Four Peaks to the East.

The Superstition Mountains to the South.

Rain and sun to the South East.

And McDowell Mountain to the West as the sun goes down.

The campsites here are spread out. We have a great campsite for 10 days and then move about 100 yds to another for 11 more. Both face pretty close to South with almost nothing in front of us for miles.

Our days have been sunny, to cloudy to an all day rain. The desert here is very green and lush.

We have been walking almost every day. I am getting out bike riding almost every day. The trails here are lots of fun. I got a new bike helmet, knee pads (from Susan) and more aggressive tires. We have been looking for elbow pads. I wear gloves and glasses too. I just haven’t reached the point where I will get the brightly colored biker wear.

Uphill from the campground toward McDowell Mountain the flowers are in full bloom. These orange poppies are all over, brilliant. There are lots of blue lupines too, they remind us of Texas Blue Bonnets.

In the afternoon the patio awning is nice. We added a sun shade last fall knowing we were coming here again. It makes a big difference. We got some inexpensive buckets at the Ace Hardware in Fountain Hills to hold the edge of the sun shade in place. We tried filling them with water. That worked for a while until it got pretty windy. We watered the nearby bushes and filled them with desert dirt (mostly gravel). They work well and nest and stack in a pretty small space.

We are here for a couple more weeks.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

Our month in Tucson has gone by quickly. Here are a bunch of short cuts.

Drawer Slides

Our friends Carol and Jeff, own a home not to far from Diamond Js. They were full timers staying at Diamond Js one year and drove through their neighborhood, a wonderful Pueblo Style house was for sale. They bought it furnished. Since then health issues have had them sell their coach and now they are full timers in their nice adobe style home. Carol was having trouble with her kitchen drawers. The old slides were just worn out. She got some new self closing slides. Kent Spears was over there for more than four hours one day working on the first drawer. The next day Scott Seibert and I went over to help. It was a bit of a challenge getting everything to fit and to work but we got seven drawers done by the time we went home.

Carol paints rocks. And then added all of the detail to make an amazing gift for my help. Totally unexpected, much appreciated. It was my pleasure to help them out.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Sabino Canyon is in the mountains on the north side of Tucson. It is a popular place to visit, lots of hiking opportunities, picnic places, horse back trails, a river and a lake and a dam. The vast majority of visitors ride the tram up the canyon about 9 miles. You can get on and off at several places. Just our luck to show up to find that the tram was not running. It hadn’t been for some time and there was no scheduled time for it to restart.

We went to the Visitor Center, got a map and a suggested trail to follow. The guy said it was a couple miles, not much elevation change, and a nice smooth trail.

So off we went following the trail. We got to the river.

And the dam.

We found a thumb sized cactus getting started.

And an ocotillo in bloom.

Then we followed the Ridge Trail, up hill, lots of rocks which we expected to lead somewhere other than back to the river. So we back tracked, sat down for a while and then back to the Visitor Center.

We were hot and tired. Our phones said we had gone more than 10,000 steps. A bit more than a couple miles.

On the way we passed Poco and Mom’s restaurant. We went there a week earlier with George and Steph for breakfast. Great huevos rancheros! So we went back.

Perfect.

Dinner at Dave and Nancy’s

Dave and Nancy are another full time Foretravel couple we know. We first met them at Diamond Js several years ago and then again at the National Elk Refuge next to Grand Teton National park. When we saw them 2 years ago at Diamond Js they had done like Carol and Jeff and bought a house just a few blocks away. So now they are here about half time and back to Wyoming the rest of the time. Nancy is happy with more space for her hobbies and Dave is pretty pleased to have a two car garage to claim as his own for shop space. Their home was lovely, very comfortable.

Dave made a wonderful chicken stew and rice. Everyone brought something to share so there was lots to eat including deserts. It was a pleasant evening, 14 Foretravel folks who have become friends over time. Another one of those things we never expected that came with this lifestyle choice.

We are off to McDowell Mountain Regional Park just north of Fountain Hills.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

First Contact

About 20 miles south of Tucson is the Titan Missile Museum. In the 1950s the US Air Force built 54 of these underground Titan II missile launch sites split between Arizona, Arkansas and Kansas. All of these sites were dismantled by 1987 except for this one as part of a nuclear reduction treaty signed as the Cold War thawed out.

Each launch site was staffed by a small crew of four who were responsible for making sure everything was working while they were on duty and for launching the missile if the proper orders were received. They were on duty for a 24 hour “Alert”. The underground site had sleeping quarters, a kitchen and everything they needed for their Alert shift.

Each of the 103 ft tall ballistic Titan II missiles had a reentry vehicle on top with a 9 megaton nuclear warhead inside. These were the largest land based nuclear missiles every deployed by the US. They were 450 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Each launch control center was protected against a direct strike. Reinforced concrete walls up to 8 ft thick, three ton air sealed blast doors and a 740 ton sliding silo door that could be opened in 18 seconds.

We got a short orientation and then went outside and through two sets of security doors and down eight flights of stairs. And then came to the first of three blast doors.

If you are over 6′ tall you had to wear a hard hat. Lots of low clearance places.

We went down into a service area in the middle of the picture above. There were secure doors into the control rooms to the right and to the long tunnel to the missile silo.

First stop was the control room.

The person leading the tour was very technical. He picked this lady out to sit in the big chair. This whole place screamed 1950s. State of the art for 1950s. Lots of buttons, lights, switches, clocks, dials. The computer here was about the same as an early 1980 PC. No disc drives, no tape drives just a punched paper tape reader. The entire control center was in a hardened shell mounted on giant springs and shock absorbers to isolate it from a near direct hit. The tour leader went through each step necessary to launch a missile.

Alerts and orders to launch came in by radio. There are several different antennas and multiple radio systems. Once the orders came the control center was entirely on its own. They verified orders and codes, started the launch process, the silo doors were opened and the missile was launched in less than a minute.

We left the control center and went though the central area. There were safety suits there worn by the fuel handlers. The Titan missiles were fully fueled and ready to launch at all times.

And then through another blast door and a long tunnel to the launch silo. The tunnel had a suspended walkway full of power and control cables. All of this in another blast resistant structure.

We got to the silo. There were big windows to look inside.

This had a familiar look.

Very familiar.

The hole in the reentry vehicle is to provide verification that the missile is unarmed.

The launch doors are locked partially open, terms of the treaty verification process.

And then I knew where I had seen this. “Star Trek : First Contact” a great 1996 movie that follows the Enterprise back in time to 2063 following a Borg ship. Part of the story is the struggle with the Borg and the other is to ensure that Zefram Cochran makes his maiden flight reaching warp speed. His warp ship is made from a missile in abandoned missile silo in Montana. The first warp drive travel lasted only a minute or so but enough to attract the attention of a Vulcan science ship traveling through the solar system. They land at the launch site and in spite of the Borg’s efforts First Contact was made.

Many of those scenes were filmed here at the Titan Museum. I asked one of the tour guides if I was right and she smiled and said yes. She said almost no one made that connection.

Pretty cool visit.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan