Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arizona and California – here I come!

Saturday, Aug. 26

Twenty years from now, you’ll probably be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Explore. Dream.
– Mark Twain

My lists are checked and double-checked – clothes, people food, cat food, etc, etc. Cat is on board, house is locked, and maps are at hand. We’re ready to head out for another adventure! We left Rio Rancho about 10 a.m. after a stop at Discount Tire for a tire pressure check. Technician discovered that the valve extension on my driver-side inside dual back tire was disconnected from the tire’s valve. This necessitated removal of the outside tire, re-attach the valve extender and re-install the outside tire.

I was nearing San Antonio (New Mexico) about noon – how convenient that my favorite café for green chile cheeseburgers is nearby. I figure that unless I cook my own, it will be the last of these tasty burgers until I get back in New Mexico.

My route took me through downtown Hatch – the community that was evacuated a couple of weeks ago due to a breech in a levee that caused flooding. With Hatch’s annual Chile Festival just a week away, residents were hustling to get the town back in order. There were piles of debris along the road awaiting pickup. Folks were shoveling, sweeping, and removing sandbags. No one was sitting and waiting for the government to do it for them!
As soon as I turned south on Main Street in Deming, it was obvious that something was going on – it was the annual Deming Duck Races that feature real, live ducks. The town’s park was mobbed with people and vendor tents, and nearby were the carnival rides. I had missed the mid-day parade – bummer!

I continued driving south to Pancho Villa State Park in the border town of Columbus; two miles north of the small Mexican border town of Palomas. It was 4 p.m.

It felt good to drive into the RV Park – I’ve been here several times in both winter and summer. Only about a half-dozen of the 52 campsites were occupied – guess folks think it is too hot to camp or they are concerned about rain and flooding. I settled into site #50 – only needed 3/4-inch plywood under the left side of Jeremiah to level.

Cat waited inside patiently while I got set up. It was about 4 p.m. and already starting to cool off. I let Cat outside to explore while I stowed things and did some organizing. When Cat came back in, I went out to walk and meet the two campground hosts.

Pancho Villa is the State Park that I’ve applied to for some volunteer “work” this winter. In visiting with Lou, a campground host who with her husband has been there nearly one year, I found out that the Ranger in charge of volunteers was helping in the Columbus-Pancho Villa booth in Deming.

The bugs were out and biting so I didn’t linger too long before heading back to Jeremiah for the evening to enjoy my “arrived at my first destination” celebratory glass of champagne.

Sunday, Aug 27
I slept well and awoke – wondering ‘what day is it?’ Then I remembered my friend Hilda telling me about a retired friend of hers who solved the ‘what day is this’ dilemma. He said, “When the fat newspaper arrives, it is Sunday!” And it’s Friday morning when I get my weekly phone call from my friend Hilda. – That leaves only 5 days to figure out!

Cat and I took advantage of the cool morning and headed outside. Cat explored and I cleaned up the outside of Jeremiah. My motorhome got its annual wash/wax just a few days ago, making dried, smashed bug removal an easy job. I also cleaned windows inside and outside. After putting Cat back inside, I walked to the new park museum that features memorabilia and artifacts from Pancho Villa’s invasion of Columbus in the early 1916.

The displays are extremely well done and interesting. I was about halfway through when I heard my name called – it was Ranger Brian. Lou had told him of my interest in volunteering. Brian’s big need for volunteers is to keep the museum staffed – and would I be interested in that. You bet I would. Brian will contact me as he works on schedules. In return for 24 hours of “work” I would get a camping site, and the opportunity to meet lots of people in an enjoyable setting.

The rest of the day – during the hot time – I started reading through a large stack of magazines that had arrived while I was traveling in the Midwest, watched birds through the windows, and planned my Monday travel.

In today’s reading, I came upon this quote attributed to Christina Lund, a passenger of JetBlue Flight 292 that made an emergency landing in December 2002:

“I’m more focused now. I want the people in my life to know I care about them. And I don’t want to waste any more time messing around. I want to take advantage of every day.”

Monday, Aug. 28
With a hot day ahead, driving into southern Arizona on Interstate 10, I got an early start. My goal for the day was Picacho Peak State Park just north of Tucson. I took “detours” through the tiny downtowns of Lordsburg, Bowie, Willcox and Benson.

Just west of Benson, I could see lots of flashing lights – and soon discovered that there had been a big rig accident on eastbound I-10. Because it is a divided highway at this point, it was difficult to determine much about the event. But for the next 10 miles, traffic coming out of Tucson was standing still. I turned up the volume on my CB and heard one trucker say he had been waiting 2 hours. I continued to be “entertained” by CB chatter as I neared Tucson.

The portion of I-10 that goes through Tucson and north toward Phoenix is everything I dislike in a highway – big truck after big truck barreling along. It was a huge relief to finally arrive at the Picacho Peak exit. When I got out to register at the state park – whew! it was hot! The Ranger gave me a map to the RV sites and said, “take your pick; you’ll probably be the only one here tonight.” And then she added, “It’s been cooling off nicely in the evening.”

Jeremiah is facing north when we park, meaning the sun is beating down on the side – and my outside thermometer (in the shade) reads 126 degrees.

Thank goodness for air conditioning! I’m in the midst of desert vegetation including mesquite and saguaro cacti, and nestled in the area between Picacho Peak, elevation 3,374 feet, and a smaller peak the ranger called “Black Mountain.” There are several interesting trails on the park map, but it’s too hot for that. I’m content to stay inside.

Tuesday, Aug. 29
It “cooled off” – got down to 92-degrees after the sun went down, and was 82-degrees at 4 a.m. this morning. Yes, I was up a little after 4, after Cat hopped up on the bed to greet me. Seems she is still on Mountain Time, not Arizona time. Also I had neglected to adjust my bedside clock.

At 7 a.m., we were heading toward the Arizona-California border – a 210-mile driving day, mostly on I-8. With very little traffic, it is a restful drive. My plan was to stop in Yuma for gas and groceries.

You’ll recall I got a new Verizon phone – one with a “navigation” feature. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to use it – and neither have three different Verizon stores. But the last store gave me the tech help phone number. I called, got it working, and am looking forward to using it.

I settled in at Rivers Edge RV Resort on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. This park has 276 RV sites that are full in the winter. I’m parked under some nice shade trees about 100 yards from the river. It was 112-degrees outside when I arrived. It’s a good time to stay inside to read and get some writing work done.

When it cooled off – well, it got down to 92 degrees – I explored the river and the RV park, and visited with a few interesting people.

Tomorrow I continue west – through the Imperial Valley, over the mountains and down into to El Cajon, California. It will be a short drive – only about 150 miles.

Wednesday, August 30
Now Cat’s clock is off in the other direction – I slept in to 6 a.m. At 8 a.m. we were ready to go. Surprisingly there is not a lot of truck traffic. The wind-sculpted sand dunes between Yuma and El Centro were not marred by off-road adventurers. They were beautiful, but alas, no good place to pull off the highway to take photos.

Yea! My “talking navigation phone” did its job and I was able to go directly to the Oak Creek RV Resort! My assigned site was not level – and after a few attempts, I got help because I was getting frustrated. Once leveled, I was deserving of a cold beer!

I arranged to have a rental car for Thursday and Friday. Jeremiah and Cat will stay here at the RV park will I tend to medical checkups, appointments with my financial advisor and CPA, a haircut and lunch with some friends.