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Friday, February 18, 2011

Old Home Week At La Paz County Park-Parker Arizona

I was going to title this “All Of My Old Rowdy Friends”but they are Bigger than me so mum’s the word…From left to right,That's Ron my next door neighbour back home and Frank who lives 5 minutes away from us.There is also another couple from home,Bill and Wendy,but they were away on a side trip for a few days as I was setting up this blogs photos.


I had concerns about coming to this park after having a bad experience the only other time that I had come here several years ago, when my travelling companions and I were turned back at the entrance gate by the “Greeting Nazi's”.But that's a whole nuther story.

This time I drove in unchallenged and found my friends from our park back home, and set up across the road from one of them,up on the grassy knoll…And look at all the nice dry camping spots that are empty.That's me in the centre of the 2nd photo.All those others are across the road on the waterfront row.

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This park is situated along the Colorado river just a few miles from Parker Arizona.

As the layout map below shows,its quite a large County Park,about 1 mile long and a quarter mile wide.There are no sewer hook-ups,just electric and water.There is a 4 hole dump station plus a couple of blue boy dump stations on each side.You can see the rows of Ramada sites that number about 114, plus unlimited dry camping area’s scattered around the open green spaces seen in this map.Actually I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got to see the inside of this place.

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So we will take a little photo tour around.Starting with a sunrise panorama shot of the lagoon area on the far left of the map.

La Paz County Park

The lagoon area is really nice and has random camping around a fair amount of its edge,if you like parking lot style camping with your own Ramada.

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Of course this is a County Park,not just a campground,so when they have an event like a kids fishing derby……Winking smile ………..It looks like this…


Ramada row looks congested but not bad when you have a Ramada between each site,like Ron's on the left and Franks on the right…..Oh Oh!…There’s Franks better half Alison, looking for him.He’s in trouble again….

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AH! Its a truce moment with the Bickersons.


Back to the tour….They have a nice open walkway behind Ramada row as seen below.

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Some of the open dry camping areas of the park.

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All photos were taken only on the left half of the map,so you can see just how large the park is.

This will be my last stop before heading for home next week and may be the last blog also for this winter’s trip,only time and conditions will determine that.I hope to be back home in B.C. by the end of the month. So far, weather conditions don't look too great for this 4 and a half day run.

I have a question that's been bothering me for awhile………In all those “Capital One”commercials on TV……How come all the Nordic Vikings all speak with an English accent?………..Love those commercials.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How “Not” To Hook Up To A Trailer.

Well old Willy wins the Darwin award again.I got away with this simple careless oversight before,but this time it came back to bite me big time.

Monday morning as I was preparing to leave Tucson’s Gilbert Ray campground,I decided not to rush as it was a nice sunny morning and I only had just over a hundred miles to go that day.

As I was backing up to align the hitch/ ball…I use a mirror but the glare was causing me to not see it properly and consequently I bumped against the hitch…..I moved the truck foreword a few inches and jumped out to see where I hit,forgetting that it still was in drive(a cold motor still on high idle)……..As I reached the rear of the truck I noticed it inching forward on its own……As I turned to scramble back to the open drivers door to stop it,I slipped on the loose gravel falling flat on my face……I got up again as it was gaining speed and made another attempt,falling again as the truck went over the embankment across the road…….And this was the result.

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As I lay in the road face down watching this dilemma taking place,a crowd of neighbours came racing from all directions to see if I was ok….But alas,all was ok outside of some scratches and reopening of some knee wounds that I acquired when I tripped over the hitch on the first night leaving Texas……Time to hang up the driving boots you say?

As you can see it actually sheared off a sizable Palo Verdi tree and in the first shot note that the branches of this very thorny tree did considerable scratch damage all the way back to the front doors.I had actually removed most branches before taking these photos as the (picture taking) was an afterthought as I was waiting for help to arrive.

It would not move when I tried to drive it back out….Just dug in until I realized that the front suspension was hung up on the broken stump of the tree I just flattened.And it was no small tree.

The park host for our area went and got one of the maintenance men and a chain saw on a long pole,I guess used for trimming trees up high,but perfect for this job as access to the stump was surrounded with cactus….Well,he cut out one section and the truck dropped,jamming again,so he cut another section and this time it freed the front suspension and I was able to 4 wheel it back to the road.My heart sank as I backed into my campsite, the truck steered funny and was making strange noises,but it was the first time I had ever used 4 wheel low and wasn't familiar with the resulting experience.So after going back to 2 wheel it seemed fine.

I did a once around in our camping circle then after thanking everyone for there help,took off to the commercial area just outside the park to a garage where I have had work done before on my Jimmy….They put it on the hoist and inspected the underside……It seems that the annoying heavy duty skid plate that has to be removed every oil change was my saviour this time as it took the brunt and all was well…..The mechanic wouldn't accept any money for his service but he got paid anyway.

Outside of the many scratches and a broken grill trim,I’m amazed at the lack of damage considering how large the tree was.

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Id say that is one tough old Texas built Yota.


The remains of the stump centre right and the rest of the tree dragged back for access to extract the truck.

So with wounded pride and truck, I Carefully”hooked up and departed for the 14 day BLM boondocking spot at Why Arizona.

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This particular parking spot is an old favourite that I have used before.I was happy to see very few here this year as its normally more busy,although the new sign at the entrance may be a deterrent as it reads that we may encounter smuggling traffic in the area……Hey,that threat has always been here anyway.And this spot is special as its where I posted my very first blog entry two years ago.

Yesterday morning,being a nice warm day I did a little wander around with camera in hand and noticed a few Palo Verdi trees nearby…..I thought the truck looked a little uneasy with its headlight eyeballs shifting around……But for those of you who haven't seen one close up……They are really thorny,so the trucks paint job didn't stand a chance.

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At least my visiting friend the Phainopepla likes thorny trees.


And finally a shot of the many dry washes here.Very wooded, making this nice free boondocking spot a great place to just relax and bird watch or drink beer if you preferWinking smile


…..Oh! And by the way….The Pima County park officials in Tucson told me I didn't have to pay for the tree damage,so that was a relief.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Little Tucson Area Tour.

We have been coming to this area many times over the the past 13 years of snowbird travel,and I cannot even count the amount of times that we have stayed here at Gilbert Ray Campground,which is a Pima County Park.


My site in C section.I seem to keep gravitating to this area of the park lately.

Some scenes across the road and down the road.

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This park is very large and well spaced,costing $20. per night with electric and randomly spaced water taps.

And not very far away is the Saguaro National Park,so we share the same beautiful landscape.

Also just down the road is the well known “Old Tucson Studios”where many a movie and TV series was shot over the years,including the 2 John Wayne Rio Bravo movies and such well known TV series as Bonanza, Little House On The Prairie, and High Chaparral.

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Its been about 10 years or more since I last had a tour inside and sat in Diamond Lille’s saloon being serenaded by one of the dancing girls,and watching the shootout re-enactments around the town and down on the High Chaparral set.

When I stopped in the parking lot yesterday just to take these pictures,I noticed that they still have the “piped in” movie, western sound, for effect.

And that famous mountain below,with my truck parked in front, has been seen in so many movies and TV as a backdrop……Many is the time you would see Hoss and Little Joe throwing someone out of the saloon with that mountain showing in the background….I guess its the biggest dead giveaway as to where the movie or TV series you are watching has been filmed.Watch for it the next time you see an old western…By the way two of the more resent films done here were The 3 Amigo’s and Tombstone.


Since its Superbowl Sunday,I thought a little morning tour into the city was in order as I needed groceries anyway…I thought I would take the scenic route over Gates Pass…You can see the cut in the hillside where the road goes up and over in the centre right of the picture.


And a view from the top,looking down at Old Tucson Studios with a corner of our campground just to the right of it.

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Then a look the other way toward Tucson,down in the notch below.


I spent a bit of time just driving around the downtown area as it was fairly quiet being a Sunday morning.

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Then I decided to find where all the shopping was,so headed north on Stone Ave and came to Tucson’s biggest mall,called….wait for it…..Tucson Mall…2 levels and over 200 stores and almost empty because I always pick the wrong time to visit these things.Just a few stores were open being a Sunday morning,maybe I was too early.As I left at 11AM some others were opening but I wanted to get to a Bank and then find me a supermarket.

I carried on out the other side of the mall on Oracle drive into one of the northwestern suburbs called Casas Adobe where I found a small shopping mall with a bank and a Safeway store that would suit my needs being that I’m a Safeway shopper……Well… maybe you guessed it but…….


Yes…This was the spot that caught the worlds attention last January the 8th when an Assassination attempt was made on Congresswomen Gabrielle Gifford,wounding her and killing 6 others including a little girl…..Gabrielle had her kiosk set up right in front of the area where the red car has its tail lights on in the pic above.That’s just to the left of the Safeway entrance….There are no signs of the tragedy in evidence now,just a few signs in the store windows advertising a gathering in a weeks time for a heeling process.

I must say as a Safeway shopper,I was impressed with this store and its staff.Maybe they are still feeling the effects as they had to shut down for a week after the tragedy just to regain any composure.There was a quiet but friendly feeling among the staff members of the store.It seemed that every time I stopped and looked up at the aisle signs searching for an item,a staff member would be right there asking if they could help.

This seems to be a close knit neighbourhood store. All in all I found it to be a strange experience to be here after watching so much footage on TV during my stay in Mission Texas….I found it to be a much smaller shopping area than the TV view gave.

All in all an interesting final day here as I move on further to the west,positioning myself for the final run home in a few weeks…….Goodbye Tucson…I’ll be back.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Well!….That Was A Wild And Wacky Week!

Nothing like setting out for a 1000 mile trek and facing down one of the biggest storms to come along in awhile…..In all fairness to the citizens of the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada,I didn't have to face down the extremes that they had,but it was bad enough considering I’m down here expecting to be in shorts and flip flops,not my toque and heavy winter jacket.

All was nice last Saturday as I left Ivan to “hold the fort” on the beaches of Padre Island,and set off northward toward San Antonio,bypassing “the city of my Toyota trucks birth”, this time in favour of highway 173 which skirts to the west of the city through the very interesting town of Bandera and the Texas “Hill Country.”

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Connecting with Interstate 10 at Kerrville,all very pretty country that I must explore in detail some time.This day was cloudy and warm and getting warmer as I headed north west that day.

My first nights stop was another interesting spot that I didn't have time to explore.It was called the Caverns of Sonora,off the highway about 8 miles in the wooded hills.The small camping area was only $15 a night pull-through’s with electric and water.They were just closing the Visitor center when I arrived so I didn't have a chance to ask about this place that had deer running around everywhere,and the strange rack of birdhouses seen below.Of course its main attraction is the Caverns…Another time.

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The next day dawned sunny and mild for this area,which did reach the 60’s as the day went on. Later that morning I crossed the Pecos river,no bigger than a ditch at this point and saw the landscape almost immediately change to the desert south west look.

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Stopping at a rest area,I finally got a close up look at one of the many blades being transported for the big wind generators that are cropping up everywhere.


I’m still wondering where they are being manufactured.

The second night saw me at a dusty park in Van Horn Texas.Nuff said…The third morning,a little nippy, around freezing but sunny as I headed for El Paso,arriving in the mid morning.Its a good size city,but smoggy.Probably because of Juarez Mexico next door.The 2 are like one big city, as from a distance you cant see where one ends and the other begins….I guess I better give them some slack,with a total population of over 2 million and a lot of industry,its bound to be smoky and dirty.At the north west end of town I made a Wal-mart stop to stock up,not knowing how long I would be at my next stop which is a little isolated.

From the Wal-mart,it was just a mile more of I-10 and off I went onto highway 9 into New Mexico,following the Mexico/U.S.border on a nice desolate, but great 2 lane highway.The only activity I saw was the Border Patrol.My goal was to visit “Pancho Villa State Park,”a place that I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

I arrived just after lunch and selected a spot in this (1/8th full) park,and within minutes a nice friendly Ranger,who liked to tell “Canadian Jokes”……You know jokes about Canadians.SmileThat's different,…..Or is it?..Anyway he warned me to batten down the hatches because a big cold storm is coming…..Here’s one of the nice spacious semi-circle sites with Ramada,water/electric, that they have for $14. a night.

010   011Then there was the next day…. After a night of high winds,blowing snow and the temperature plunging to 0 degrees f. or-17c…This is what we had.


This condition lasted for 2 days with the temperature struggling up to 15 f. during the day,nowhere near a thaw,finally taking its toll on half of my water system,(supposedly good to 0 with my enclosed heated underbelly) the first day and completing the freeze job on the second day.

So on the 3rd morning with no water(Except a jerry can kept inside) and the furnace never stopping,I decided to make a run for it after going on-line and figuring where the nearest best temps were, within a days drive...And that was Tucson where they forecast a high of 35….I’ll take it I said to myself…..Throwing my frozen satellite dish cables,(all 6 of them) inside to thaw out while having some breakfast.There was no way you could coil them up.

At sun up,(finally at least some sun)I headed out with square wheels thumping along until they warmed up,and the furnace still running in the trailer.(not knowing how much damage my water system has sustained)I didn't want to cause anymore..Was sort of nice and cosy for pee breaks though.

I joined up with I-10 again at Deming New Mexico,30 miles to the north,watching my truck thermometer slowly rising as I headed west.As I neared Tucson dropping down from the generally 4 to 5000ft level of the past few days to a more conservative 2000ft,I gave a big cheer as the temp read-out hit 32 degrees and finally 35 as I reached Gilbert Ray Campground just west of the city.

033And within a few hours my water system was unfrozen and thankfully undamaged,so having the enclosed underbelly must have saved it some after all……BUT WAIT!…….I didn't show my little tour of Pancho Villa park before the storm hit……I’ll be brief….I know some of you have been there.

Here’s an explanation.


Now the park itself is part of the old military camp.


And below is a shot of Cootes Hill,a lookout point,then another shot taken from the hill looking down into the park,with Palomas Mexico in the distance.

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And another view looking down at the visitor centre/museum with the town of Columbus NM in the background.


Due to the bad weather,I never got over to see the museum plus several other things,but will definitely be back during warmer weather…..It really is a nice, although a little dusty, park..See we even have our own garbage can at each site.Winking smile

And a nice wall.Winking smile