Nice and NOT in Nevada

We traveled north through Nevada intending to visit two intriguing state parks: Valley of Fire and Cathedral Gorge. The pictures and reviews for both parks were great but, unlike most states, Nevada doesn’t take campground reservations. Everything is first come-first served and our plan was to try to make it work not once, but twice! Because of our RV size, and my discomfort with winging it, we almost always have reservations.

With no guarantee, we left at 7:30, two or three hours earlier than usual. It was mid-week and our destination was an hour east of Las Vegas. We arrived at Valley of Fire well before noon and the campground was “filling up fast.”  We had to pay the $10 entry fee to drive several miles in to see if staying was possible.

The views from the main road were beautiful and we saw RVs headed out of the park so we were hopeful.  When we arrived at the campground there were just a few open spots and the only ones we could fit into were handicapped sites. The camp hosts explained the rangers would release those sites to anyone once everything else was full but the rangers wouldn’t say when they were likely to do so.

Basically we drove 50 miles out of our way, paid $10 to drive to the campground to find out we couldn’t stay, and then couldn’t explore the park because we had the trailer attached. We are not fans of Nevada’s no reservation policy!

We decided to drive several more hours to our second park, Cathedral Gorge State Park. I spoke to a ranger from there earlier in the week who told me they are rarely full this time of year so we felt good about our prospects.


All through southern Nevada we saw solar panel arrays.

fullsizeoutput_3af7After a LONG day in the truck we found a site and I took Elko for a walk.   Randy set up, opened the slides, and discovered more disarray and damage than we’ve ever had in a prior move. He remembers a big rise and dip over a railroad track so maybe that did it. We had cupboards opened that never open, clothing off the racks in the closets and a box valance came loose. One of our rocking chairs rotated and tipped so when the slide opened, it broke one of the rocker bases.


A brief history on the rocking chairs….My parents bought two of them while living in Panama in the late 1970s for $10 – $15 each. The leather was cured with urine so in hot weather they were a bit aromatic!   My parents had them for 20 years or so and then we acquired them. We had them in our house and they “made the cut” for the trailer. We could have sold them over and over again.


Of all the things that could have been damaged, the rocking chair was not a great option! I strap them down with velcro and put rugs and blankets around them each time we move. The velcro was still holding but most of the chair was elsewhere. We are headed towards our friend Darrell who is a master wood worker. I am hopeful that Darrell can help Randy figure out a fix or rebuild.


After we regained focus, we found Cathedral Gorge State Park to be a barren and dusty place with the most interesting rock formations!  An early mining camp resident named the area Cathedral Gorge because the formations reminded her of European Cathedrals.



The campground is in the top right corner.

The park has broad expanses of eroded siltstone and we have enjoyed hiking and exploring.


Stairway to heaven….

Most fun were the nooks and crannies that hide openings into slot canyons. Some go just a few feet and some go a hundred feet or more. It was much cooler inside!fullsizeoutput_3ae4


Where did my dad go?

Elko didn’t like the slot canyons we explored in Utah, but the walking surfaces in these were mostly level and he did well. Some surfaces in and around the formations were like smooth concrete.


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked at the site in the 1930s and some improvements are still around.

So, Nevada parks were a mixed bag.  We are less likely to visit more parks in the future because of the no reservation policy.   Someday we’ll take a day trip to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas but we won’t try to stay there again.

Continuing north, we saw snow along the sides of the road and in the mountains.   We spent last night in Wells but it was mostly just an overnight pull-through and laundry stop.  After a week without sewer hookups (thus unable to do laundry in the trailer) we had quite the pile.  I did four loads in the trailer and four in the park facilities.   We have clean clothes, towels, bedding and rugs heading into Idaho!

Arizona: Done and Done

We have meandered through Arizona since mid-December and, with temperatures teasing into the 90s, it was time to move on. We enjoyed ourselves in the resorts and loved the time spent in desert parks. We appreciated seeing family and making new friends. We especially enjoyed reconnecting with friends that we see here, there and everywhere. Thinking of you Beth, Mark and Teri, Gerry and Kathy, Kevin and Karen, and Kent and Pam.

fullsizeoutput_3acfKent and Pam met us near Lake Havasu City on their way south and our way north – our final stop in Arizona for this season.


We enjoyed the scenery and commentary on a Colorado River Jet Boat Tour.


fullsizeoutput_3ac7We learned paddlewheel steamers first came onto the Colorado River to transport Army supplies north from Fort Yuma.  A comedy of errors resulted in 30 percent of the 150+ steamers sinking due to sand bars or flooding. Fortunately, there was little loss of life.

fullsizeoutput_3ac8The waters were the right level for travel if the eye opening was visible on this reclining rock face. If waters were too high or too low, the eye was not visible.   We were good!

fullsizeoutput_3ac9There was also an area of petroglyphs.

fullsizeoutput_3ac0Our tour began and ended near the London Bridge.  The city of London put the bridge up for sale in 1967 and Lake Havasu City entrepreneur Robert McCulloch bought it for $2,460,000. There were higher bids but the London folks liked McCulloch’s plan to use the bridge for foot and motor traffic over water.

Bricks were individually numbered, deconstructed and shipped. With some structural modifications,  the London Bridge was reassembled in Lake Havasu City.


The damage on this bridge support was from an air battle during the second world war. Bullet holes and missing rock are evident when viewed from water level.

fullsizeoutput_3ad4There were “love locks” on two fences symbolizing the devotion of couples to each other. This tradition began in Paris.

Kent and Pam stayed in town but we stayed at Cattail Cove State Park. Arizona has some great state parks and this was another of them.

fullsizeoutput_3ab3Elko enjoyed wading in at the Dog Beach several times a day.
fullsizeoutput_3ad5Kent and I took our canoe out and enjoyed a paddle!  Notice the interesting erosion barrier in the background.  Our TxDot friend, Mark told us that pocketed fabric is laid, liquid concrete is pumped in and allowed to dry.  The fabric eventually decomposes.



IMG_2128This area is above Parker Dam and the facility on the right is where water is pumped out to go to southern California.


Parker Dam is the deepest dam in the world with nearly three-fourths of its structure below ground. It also has an interesting construction story!

In 1934 the Arizona governor declared martial law and machine-gun nests were put in place to deal with one of “the gravest threats ever faced” – water-thieves from California.

Water rights along Colorado River system were divided amongst New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California but Arizona refused to sign on to the plan. They believed that California was taking more than its fair share.

Governor Moeur was unhappy when the Bureau of Reclamation started building the dam and he sent National Guard troops to take whatever steps necessary to prohibit the workers from even touching “the sacred soil of old Arizona.”

The Navy of Arizona had only two old ferryboats but the Supreme Court ruled for Arizona saying the dam had not been properly authorized.  Congress then passed the Rivers and Harbors Bill, authorizing the construction of Parker Dam.


Another of our pleasures was hiking the trails along the river in Cattail Cove State Park. The river views were very nice but best were the wild flowers and cactus blooms!


Those cold, rainy days and nights in Tucson in January were rewarded with so many wild flowers! The beauty of the desert in bloom is astounding. We may never see it this good again!

fullsizeoutput_3aafSo, our stay in Arizona is done for another year. We decided we will not return to two of the resorts we visited this year.  We didn’t have bad visits but, in both cases, there was continual jet noise that we tired of it. Done and done!  There are other parks!

When we drove into Yuma three months ago, my hopes for this season were to see javelina in the wild and to NOT see a snake. Because and in-spite of many miles and hours walking in the desert, both hopes were realized!  Arizona: Done and Done!

Mr. and Mrs. Matthews!

When we planned this stop at the Sunflower RV Resort in Surprise, Arizona we thought we’d see our friends Gerry and Kathy and go to a couple Mariners Spring Training Games.   We did most of that, and even had a couple surprises!


We are Mr. and Mrs. Matthews at this week’s Mariners game!

Oddly enough the opponent for both games was the Texas Rangers.  It is odd because we saw two major league games last summer both involving the Rangers.  The first was at Safeco Field in Seattle and then a few weeks later against the Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis. This spring both games we went to were Mariners playing the Rangers.  I’m hoping that when we see a game in Seattle this summer it won’t be the Mariners and Rangers AGAIN!

fullsizeoutput_3a97We had a surprise meet-up this week with Boise friends who came south for Spring Training – Cubs fans Kevin and Karen!   Thanks for the visit!

We had another most wonderful surprise! Our nephew, Sean, married his Lisa last night and since we were in the valley, we were able to go. When Sean and Lisa were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, it occurred to me that there were (at least) three other couples in attendance who were also Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, we being one of them.


Two sets of Mr. and Mrs. Matthews:  Sean and Lisa with Sean’s parents (and Randy’s brother) Tim and Yvette.

P1090786This picture shows two of Sean’s siblings,  Tim (blue tie) and his wife Christal, and Michele (holding the baby) and her family.  (Tim and Christal are also a Mr. and Mrs. Matthews.)  Michele’s husband is also a Tim but they are not a Mr. and Mrs. Matthews. This part of Randy’s family is the crew we play Fantasy Football with and three of the eight owners in the league are named Tim.

It was terrific to be able to spend quite a bit of time with Tim and Yvette this winter.  We are already looking forward to next year although we’ll be in Yuma so it won’t be quite as easy.

So, some other odds and ends from our week in Surprise….

fullsizeoutput_3a9dWe were liking Phoenix more than we thought….and then it took us 90 minutes to go 30 miles from the west valley to Mesa!

fullsizeoutput_3a96When I took Elko out at dawn our first morning here, we saw three coyotes in this wash about 100 yards from our trailer. There is a fence between the resort and the wash but it was still pretty interesting!

fullsizeoutput_3a9cRandy bought a “new to him” golf bag and push cart at the resort patio sale for $20. Such a bargain!

fullsizeoutput_3a9bI mentioned to Randy a few weeks ago that I missed hearing cactus wrens this year. They have a very distinctive “start the engine” song and we’ve heard and enjoyed them on previous trips. Here is a link if you’d like to hear what they sound like.

And here at Sunflower, we have had a cactus wren hanging out in the light pole at our site! It has been a nice ending song for our Arizona winter. One more stop…and then north.

Randy Really Likes This Park!


After a month in an RV Resort, we’ve spent the last few days back in the desert at White Tank Mountain Regional Park.  Randy has told me several times a day that he really likes this park!   This is our third stay at a Maricopa Country Regional Park and they have each been very nice. We have three more to explore in coming years.


Back in the desert means pulling out the rope lights to discourage the pack-rats!


Love the Mexican Poppies!

We have been fortunate to be here at just the right time to enjoy the desert wildflowers. They are everywhere!

fullsizeoutput_3a2bAs always, we enjoy the saguaro and the many shapes they exhibit!


Even this saguaro skeleton has a great shape!

I learned from an Arizona Highways article this week that plural cactus can be called cacti or cactuses.  Webster’s and Oxford dictionaries list both forms but show cactuses as preferred. Although I’m not sure I can change my ways after years and years of referring to more than one cactus as cacti, I am glad to have learned this.

We also learned the White Tank Mountains were named for depressions scoured into the white granite from water runoff after torrential rains. There hasn’t been any rain during the past week, so we were surprised to see water on the Waterfall Trail.  There was even a small stream of water in the waterfall.fullsizeoutput_3a2eThe walk was long and hot for our boy Elko so at least he was rewarded with a stroll in the white tank!

fullsizeoutput_3a31On the way to the waterfall we passed through the “Petroglyph Plaza.” These are the most petroglyphs in one place that we have ever seen – and we didn’t even wander off trail. The Hohokam lived here from 500 AD to 1100 AD and, in addition to extensive petroglyphs, there are seven village archeological sites.

Nowadays the park is “home” to extensive trails for hiking and mountain-biking. Randy has done both and enjoyed it thoroughly. His hikes have ranged from 8-13 miles in length. Mine were much more modest!


Randy saw an old abandoned dam on one of his hikes.

fullsizeoutput_3a36My favorite cactus – that isn’t really a cactus- is ocotillo. Ocotillo are only in the White Tank Mountain area at the highest elevations. Randy saw some on one of his hikes – almost ready to bloom – so he emailed me a picture.  If they were blooming, I might have had to go see!

fullsizeoutput_3a1dWe did venture out of the park one day to meet our friends, Gerry and Kathy, for a Mariners game and dinner. We met them in Tucson last year and met up in Phoenix this year – the way of RVers!
fullsizeoutput_3a28Segura on second, Cano on first, Cruz in the batter’s box, and Seager on deck.  We got the big boys for our spring training game!

We’ll see the Mariners again next week when we move 11 miles east to Sunflower RV Resort.   It is probably our shortest move ever – and shorter than Randy’s hike today!

Night-Glow Golf from Casa Grande

We started our month with a Night Glow Balloon Festival and finished with a Night Glow Golf Tournament! Randy played the Palm Creek Golf Course earlier in the week so as to be familiar with it, but it didn’t matter. It was dark enough out there that you couldn’t see anything anyway!


Randy with the glow balls for his team. They stay lit for five minutes after striking.


Glow sticks were placed at the back of the green and others were mounted on the pin so you had an idea of where to hit to. There was a glow rope in the cup that was visible when you got close enough. It was a unique, fun, experience for him to play and me to walk along.


Randy’s team got an even-par for the five hole scramble tournament and tied for first place. Each player got six (regular) golf balls and a free round of golf.

fullsizeoutput_39f4So, even though it was overcast and windy, he played again yesterday.

We saw an egret hunting for lunch in the creek that runs through the back nine.

Randy loves, loves, loves his new watch. It does a jillion things including identifying yardages on golf courses. That feature was especially helpful in the Night Glow Tournament.

We’ve enjoyed our month at Palm Creek and were glad to make some new friends! Iris and Ron are from California and we’ll likely see them again as we traverse north and south.


Iris told people she met from Elko, Nevada about our Elko, so they came by to meet him.

fullsizeoutput_3a01Rick and Diana (and Buddy) are from Iowa and were gracious “across the street” neighbors. We enjoyed afternoon chats and dinner out with them. The Iowa sticker is missing on our map so, hopefully, we’ll see them again too!

Elko and Buddy snuggle up for an afternoon snooze.

Rick and Diana, like many others, have been coming to Palm Creek for years and years. It is their winter home away from home. We certainly understand the appeal of this beautiful park.

Palm Creek has tons of activities and brings in terrific entertainment. At a very modest cost, we have enjoyed one or two shows weekly.

fullsizeoutput_39fcMost permanent and seasonal people have golf carts and some are decorated in fun ways.

Of course, living in a traveling home means there is always some work to do or have done. Randy arranged for Jim’s Mobile RV to flush out our black and gray tanks.

Randy paid for the service, but then, of course, he helped!


As part of Randy’s cell booster project we acquired a new ladder mount flag pole. I was originally going to dispose of the ground level flag pole – but decided to keep it and get a Mariner’s flag instead! Flags tend to be conversation starters with people who walk by.


We are nearly done with our month in Casa Grande. Randy and I see a “winter home” like this in our future – just not anytime soon. (A Florida winter and a Texas winter need to happen first!) And as nice as it is, our eventual winter home isn’t likely to be Palm Creek because Casa Grande just didn’t do it for us. We did like, however, that Casa Grande was only 45 minutes from Randy’s brother Tim and Yvette’s house in Chandler! It is always fun to spend time with them.

A brief digression: We wondered about how to say the name of this town? We say Casa Grande the Spanish way (but omitting the rolled “r”) – “cossa gronday”. We’ve heard others say “cassa grand” and also several combinations of the two. A little research shows that there isn’t a “correct” way – even among locals.

So Casa Grande isn’t our answer but Arizona probably is. We like the southwest flavor, the mostly nice winter weather and the lack of bugs and humidity! Tucson still has Randy’s heart, and may be our answer, but we agree that the park we’ve stayed in the last two years is not. There are other parks in Tucson to try. Mesa, never on our radar before, is now there because I liked it so well when we were there in December. Time will tell.

Tomorrow, we move back into a more natural desert setting traveling to a Maricopa County Regional Park northwest of Phoenix. We have stayed in two Maricopa parks previously that were very nice and we are looking forward to visiting a new one.  More from there next time!

The Other Road Between Phoenix and Tucson

fullsizeoutput_39dcThe main route between Phoenix and Tucson is 115 miles of  busy Interstate 10. A few dozen miles east of I-10 is the alternative – the slower, two lane, scenic Highway 79. The historic town of Florence we visited last week is along Highway 79.


While there we learned about Tom Mix, a silent movie star who was the iconic western actor of his generation. He appeared in more than 300 western films. He was “King of the Cowboys” before Roy Rogers was. His blazed face partner was Tony, the first horse to be a real movie star.


Along Highway 79, about 50 miles north of Tucson, is a roadside memorial to Tom Mix.

fullsizeoutput_39daMix crashed and died here after traveling too fast and missing a detour.  He survived the initial accident but was killed when his large baggage trunk toppled over on top of him, breaking his neck.

Further north we found memorials and monuments of a different sort.


A bit east of Highway 79 is St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery. Several people had suggested we visit the monastery but Randy was reluctant because he didn’t want to put on long pants, shoes and socks, and long sleeves. He has this thing about wearing shorts in the Arizona sunshine!

p1090484I wore the required long skirt, shoes and stockings, and long sleeved blouse but my blouse was apparently not modest enough as I was given another to wear over it along with a head scarf.

The monastery is an active community of monks living, working and worshipping on the grounds. They allow visitors in some areas.  St Anthony’s was established in the Arizona desert by six monks in the summer of 1995. They were sent from Holy Mountain of Athos in Greece which maintains a direct link from early Christianity. Holy Mountain consists of a few thousand monks in 20 independent monasteries and numerous hermitages around the world.

St. Anthony the Great lived from 251-356 and was the “father of monasticism.” The main church is dedicated to him. Other churches and chapels on the grounds are dedicated to other saints.


The inside of the main church dedicated to St. Anthony


St. Nicholas’ Chapel



Looking into the interior of St. Nicholas’ chapel.


Workmanship and detail throughout the monastery are stunning, notice the ceiling!


Shading accomplished with individual stones is amazing.


Altar areas are behind curtains and not viewable by visitors.



The stained glass window and picture were positioned to allow light to shine upon the saint.


Monks typically stand for services in these stations along the perimeter. They are able to sit if they grow tired.

Currently about 40 monks and novices follow a schedule of prayer and work on the monastery grounds. Works include tending the gardens, vineyards, and orchards, woodworking, construction and food preparation. Other tasks are related to hospitality as Orthodox men and women from around the world are able to spend a few days at the monastery for spiritual growth.


The traditional Orthodox cross, also called the Russian cross, has three horizontal bars.


The top bar has the inscription “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” The second is for Jesus’ hands. The third, and lowest bar, was his foot-rest. The third bar is sometimes shown slanted because the thief crucified on Jesus’ right repented and was saved – thus that side points toward Heaven. The thief to Jesus’ left did not and he went down to Hell.


St. Elijah Chapel

Even with the dress code requirements, those who had encouraged us to visit the monastery were correct. It was well worth the drive and inconvenience!  St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is a beautiful and interesting place.

Fanning Out to Florence



We finally ventured out of the RV Resort and went east 30 miles to Florence. We knew there was some interesting history there but didn’t realize just how much there was to discover.


We began at McFarlane State Historic Park. This building is the longest standing courthouse in the state of Arizona. It was replaced as the courthouse in 1891 and subsequently served as a county hospital, public health office and county historical society office.


The building is named for Ernest McFarland who is the only known American to serve their state in all three branches of government. He was a United States Senator, Governor and Arizona Supreme Court Justice. As Senate Majority Leader he led the effort to intern United States citizens of Japanese ancestry. He is also considered to be the “Father of the GI Bill.” Surely, he has a mixed legacy.


We learned about the Florence Prisoner of War Camp which held Italian and German prisoners during World War II. Camp Florence was Arizona’s largest prison camp holding 13,000 men over its 4 year operation. It was one of 666 prison camps around the country.

Many prisoners were placed in temporary agriculture camps in rural America creating a “work force” to replace the one that was depleted because most able-bodied men joined the war effort.


The second Pinal County Courthouse was built in 1891 with a belief that there was future prosperity in mining and agriculture. Over the years there were four additions to the original building and a multi-phase renovation project from 2003-2011.

This courthouse was the site of trials or hearings for three notorious Arizona women, Pearl Heart, Eva Dugan and Winnie Ruth Judd.  Pearl Heart was charged with committing one of the last recorded stage coach robberies in the US in 1899.    Pearl  was initially acquitted but an angry judge ordered a second trial and she was then convicted.

Eva Dugan was convicted of murder in the 1930s and sentenced to be hanged. Her hanging resulted in her decapitation and influenced the State of Arizona to replace hanging with the gas chamber.

Medical secretary Winnie Ruth Judd was found guilty of murdering and dismembering two of her friends believing they were interested in her lover. She traveled with their body parts in trunks and luggage from Phoenix to Los Angeles.   The crime was notoriously named the “Trunk Murders.”

Florence has a long and interesting history of crime and justice.  It is also the site of the Arizona State Prison which  replaced the Yuma Territorial Prison in 1908.


At the Pinal County Historical Museum we saw more exhibits about prisoners and executions. The Florence prison was, and still is, the site for executions in Arizona.

Pictures of prisoners are surrounded by the very ropes that were used for their hangings.


The Hernandez brothers sat in these chairs and died in the gas chamber in 1934. They were the first to die using the gas chamber in Arizona.


There is even a display showing those executed and their last meal choices.   There were 141 people (140 men and 1 woman) executed in Arizona from 1865 to present.  I don’t know if all were represented in this display but there were pictures for most, if not all.

Fortunately there is much more to this museum than death and morbidity!  There are a huge variety of displays that could take days to fully peruse! I’d be happy to spend more time there on another day.


Above is a display of furniture made using saguaro and chollo cactus in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is now illegal to remove or damage cactus on public lands but there once was a thriving furniture business!

We enjoyed our day out of the resort and hope to do another excursion soon. There is even more to see in Florence if we head back that way!