Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunset Palm RV Park

During our time in Yuma, Arizona, we stayed at Sunset Palm RV park. The park is located in the far eastern part of Yuma in an area called the Foothills. It is one of a group of commonly owned RV parks. The other parks are located adjacent with one or two exceptions. There are RV parks all over Yuma. In fact, you can’t really toss a pig in any direction without hitting one. Deciding on a single park is really difficult.

Sunset Palm is not a resort RV park. It doesn’t have a pool, for example, or beautiful landscaping. It’s simply a very comfortable, reliable park. Streets are paved, but each site is gravel. Each site has a concrete patio and a good place to park your tow or towed vehicle. All sites have full hookups, including cable TV with about 25 stations. WiFi is not available in the park. The laundry room is clean and all machines work.

The office area includes the laundry, a meeting room, a library with book swap, and 2 pool tables. 

Laundry room.

Our site, #59, had a nice concrete patio and plenty of room to park our truck.

One of the streets in the park.

One of several park models in the park.

The park is not large. There are only 102 sites. Most sites are occupied by long-term residents, mostly winter visitors fleeing the cold. Many of them come here year after year to enjoy the pleasant Yuma winters. There are a few park models, and there are a few short term residents like us. Everyone in the park was friendly. You could tell they enjoyed staying here. Each evening, people would sit on their patios, often visiting one another. Lots of folks walk around the park or ride their bicycles. They often have pancake breakfasts or coffee and snacks in the mornings. People truly seem to enjoy their stays here.

Shopping and dining are convenient to the park. There is a large grocery store, Fry’s, about half a mile to the east, while a large Walmart is about 3 or 4 miles west. Numerous restaurants are located nearby. The park is about half a mile from Interstate 8, so traffic noise is not really a problem. Our site (#59) was at the front of the park, so we did hear quite a bit of street noise from South Payson Drive, the street bordering the park, but it was not enough to keep us awake at night. I could also hear a train occasionally at night, but the track is about 3 miles or so north, so it was a problem.

Rates at the park are very reasonable, especially for long-term residents. It’s a good place to stay.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Yuma, Arizona

Yuma, Arizona, has been a pleasant surprise for us. Before arriving here, I had images of a hot, barren desert in my mind. Sure, it does get hot here in the summer, and it is surrounded by desert, but it is anything but barren.

Almost 100,000 people call Yuma home. And if you throw in all the neighboring communities, the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area is easily twice that size. It is a very progressive community with fine shopping and good restaurants.

I was really surprised by all the crops grown here. Lettuce is a huge winter crop. Lemon groves are everywhere. We also saw cabbage, peanuts, other citrus groves, and various other crops. Numerous large canals crisscross the area, feeding smaller canals that flood fields with life giving water. I do not know the source of the water, but it is vitally important to this area.

One of the large canals in the area. I don't recall what is being grown on the right. To the left is a lemon grove.

A lemon Grove with one or two other crops in front.

Close up of some lemon trees. Click the picture to enlarge it and you should be able to see some lemons.

We visited a the Arizona Market Place one day. It is the largest outdoor market place in Arizona. Everything you could want was sold there, such as clothes, tools, kitchen tools, even RVs. We bought some fresh locally grown produce.

Arizona Market Place

We visited a place called Martha's Gardens one day. It sits in the middle of a date farm. We had heard of "date shakes" since arriving in the area, so we had to try one. It was thick, rich, and delicious. We picked up a bag of pitted Medjool dates. We've enjoyed dates since our days living in the Middle East. We like to slice dates in half lengthwise, then stuff them with cream cheese. It's a great snack.

Store at Martha's Gardens.

Date trees at Martha's  Gardens

More date trees at Martha's Gardens with some rugged mountains as a backdrop.

Yuma is a haven for winter visitors, especially those in RVs. Many come here year after year to avoid cold weather elsewhere. They get to play golf here all winter, enjoy the out of doors, eat in some very good restaurants, and take things easy in a relatively relaxed environment.

And there is much more to Yuma, but in 3 days this is about all we could do?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Yuma Territorial Prison

As a student of the American West, whenever I’ve heard the name Yuma, I’ve always thought of the Territorial Prison located there. So when we decided to spend a few days in Yuma, the first place I wanted to see was the Yuma Territorial Prison.

Entrance to the park, with the watch tower located atop the water supply.

The prison opened for business on July 1, 1876, when 7 men who helped build the facility were locked into their cells. The prison would continue to operate for 33 years, during which time it would house a total of 3,069 prisoners, including 29 women.

The prison is perched on a bluff above the Colorado River. The historic downtown district of Yuma is located just to the west. In the early days of the prison, the citizens downtown could easily see the prison; perhaps its dominating presence helped keep some of them honest.

The tour of the prison begins at the gift shop. We purchased our 2 tickets for a total of $12 and were led outside and told briefly about what to expect. We began by climbing the main tower, which was actually located atop the prison’s water supply. At the top, we had a commanding view to the Yuma East Wetlands restoration project.

Back down on ground, we walked through the Sally Port, the check point through which prisoners entered and left the prison. The most notorious attempted prison escape at Yuma occurred here when several prisoners took the superintendent hostage and tried to force their way out. 4 of them were killed and the other captured.

The Sally Port, with the museum directly behind.

Just beyond the Sally Port is the prison museum. This building is located on the site of the original prison mess, and was built during the Great Depression, long after the prison had closed its doors to guests. A 7 or 8 minute film in the museum runs constantly, and is a great way to get some background on the prison.

Interior of museum. There are many interesting items here. Be sure to watch the informative film.
Continue through the museum out the back door and you will see the remaining cell blocks. At one time, the prison hospital was located atop these cell blocks, but that structure is now long gone. All of the cells except a few are locked, but step up to the bars. Some of the cells have audio recordings that are activated once you approach the cell. The “voices” tell prisoner stories. 6 prisoners were usually kept in each cell. During times of overcrowding, many were confined in the corridors.

The remaining cell block. The hospital was actually built on top, but it is long gone.

A typical cell. 6 prisoners would share this cell and the single chamber pot.

Just beyond the first cell block is the “Dark Cell,” which was carved out of a caliche hill. The “Dark Cell” was a type of punishment. Step through the door and down a 10 foot or so hallway. At the end is an enlarged cell. There is no window, so the only light is from the door down the hall. Often several prisoners at a time would be put in this cell, and some slow learners had to be housed here repeatedly. I was in there for only a few seconds and was happy to leave. I cannot imagine being in there for days on end.

Entrance to the dark cell, which was simply cut out of rock.

The short hall area leading to the cell. The door provides the only light for the cell.

The actual cell. You can see why it is called the "dark cell."
I enjoyed our visit to the prison, but I was happy to escape.

Friday, February 26, 2016

On the Road: Laughlin, NV, to Yum, AZ

We’re at Sunset Palms RV Park in Yuma, Arizona. It’s almost 200 miles from our previous location in Laughlin.

We left Laughlin KOA early yesterday morning and crossed the Colorado River into Arizona. We took Arizona 95 south to Needles, California, where we crossed the Colorado River once again. So, within about 20 minutes of leaving, we had been in 3 different states: Nevada, Arizona, and California.

We drove through Needles on old Route 66, where we then took US 95 south. This is a busy highway with numerous commercial trucks and RVs. It is only 2 lanes with no shoulders, and there are no businesses along the way. The scenery is almost identical to what we’ve been experiencing for our entire stay in the Southwest. For the entire 50 miles, there were no passing lanes, and the speed limit is 55 for trucks and RVs while it is 65 for other traffic. For the first 20 miles or so, we had a slow and gradual climb up a slope. After reaching the summit, it is then a gradual slope 30 miles down to Vidal Junction, which is a 4 way stop sign, an inspection station, and 1 or 2 businesses.

We turned east on California 62 for 17 miles where we once again crossed the Colorado River, putting us back into Arizona at Parker. Parker is a busy community which is popular with snow birds and other RVers. It’s a good place to stop for gasoline, food, or other supplies.

But we continued south, now on Arizona 95, another 2 lane highway. It is 37 miles from Parker to Quartzsite, and there are 2 passing lanes on this stretch. Once again, this is a busy highway. As we neared Quartzsite, we began seeing a few saguaro cacti scattered about. Quartzsite is an interesting town. Fewer than 4,000 people live there, but the town is a magnet for RVers. I’m not sure what attracts them, though I’m sure the mild winter climate is a major reason. The town is pretty isolated from metropolitan centers, but that doesn’t seem to matter. RV parks line Arizona 95 on the north. We stopped for gas here, then crossed Interstate 10 and picked up US 95. As we left Quartzsite, we saw RVs parked all in the dessert along the highway on the south side of town.

From Quartzsite, it is 73 miles to where we turned off on the east side of Yuma. Once again we found ourselves on a busy 2 lane road, and we saw only 1 passing lane along this stretch. Much of the time, there is no shoulder on the highway. Nearing Yuma, the Yuma Proving Ground appears on the west side of the road. Gradually, crops appear on both sides of the highway, and then we crossed the Gila River.

There were few places to stop along our 200 mile route, other than the towns indicated above. Also, we did not see a single roadside park even though more than half our route was along a US highway. Much of the route is hilly making passing difficult, so when driving an RV traffic will undoubtedly pile up behind you. But the road surface for almost the entire route is good quality, so the ride is smooth. Also, I've tried ro be clear labeling the highways. There are 2 highways using the same number. One is Arizona 95, which is contained entirely in Arizona. The other is US 95, which passes through California and Arizona. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Leaving Nevada

Our stay in Nevada is almost at an end. We've been in the Silver State for almost 2 months. We've done a little site-seeing, a little hiking, and a lot of gambling. It's time to start heading home.

We've not had any Internet connectivity the last 2 weeks. We've been staying at the Laughlin KOA at the Avi Casino. Even though the RV park advertises that it provides WiFi, it doesn't work well. As the clerk said at the time we checked in, "We offer WiFi but we don't guarantee it." On our previous stay, we were closer to the office and were able to pick up a signal much of the time. On this visit, we are much farther from the office and have not enjoyed a signal at all.

Of course, I have my phone, but as I've stated before, I don't enjoy posting this way. So, until I have connectivity, I probably won't be posting much.

From here, we head about 200 miles south to Yuma, Arizona. We've been enjoying 70 plus degree weather the past 2 weeks, but Yuma will be warmer. We'll spend 4 nights seeing the sights in Yuma before heading east. Hopefully, I'll have a connection and some interesting pictures to post.

I hope to see you down the road.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Trapped Like a Rat

Recently we were spending 3 nights at the Aquarius Casino and Resort in Laughlin, Nevada. I had been in our room on the 5th floor and was on my back downstairs to find Donna on the casino floor. I went to the bank of 6 elevators, pressed the down button, then stepped on the elevator when the doors opened.
The elevator began its descent, then suddenly came to a jarring stop at the 3rd floor. When the elevator did not resume it's descent, I began to grow a bit concerned.
Have you ever been stuck on an elevator? It's funny what goes through your mind. The first thing I thought of was how glad I was that I had recently visited the restroom, for I might be stuck on this elevator for awhile.
Then my thoughts became more practical. Did anyone know the elevator had stopped? I began pushing buttons. First, I pushed the 1st floor button again, but that did no good. Then I pushed the button to open the doors, but that also did no good. Next I pushed the button next to a bell icon, and a bell rang. Right about then, the elevator came back to life and resumed it's descent. But just as quickly as it started, it came to another jarring halt, this time a little below the 1st floor.
I tried all the buttons again, but once again this produced no result. I was still concerned that no one knew about the elevator being stuck, so I pulled out my phone and called Donna and told her what was happening and the elevator number.
Then I spotted the emergency phone on the panel below the controls. I pushed the button and someone responded immediately. I was told that they were aware of the problem and that they were responding. They asked if I was alright.
In a few minutes, someone knocked on the elevator door to check on me. I could also hear Donna's voice outside the door. Every few minutes, someone would check on me. I'm not sure what was going on or what measures were being taken.
Then the lights went off for a few moments. I didn't like that. But they were out for only a brief time. I banged on the door and tried to tell them about the lights, but no one seemed to hear me. Then the lights came back on and the elevator began moving. It felt like the elevator was moving up quite a bit. Then it suddenly stopped, the doors slid opened, and I hurriedly stepped out.
Being stuck on an elevator is a bit unnerving. The scariest part was not knowing if my predicament was known. Once I made contact with hotel personnel, I felt much better. Now I pause anytime I have to get on an elevator. I've always had a standing rule to use the stairs for anything less than 3 flights, so I don't mind taking the stairs. But now when I step on an elevator, my insides jump just a bit. The biggest lesson I learned, though, is to always use the restroom before stepping on one of those cages; you never know how long you might be trapped like a rat.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Where Are Donna and Keith

We left Las Vegas almost a week ago. Our trailer is now parked at the KOA next to the Avi Casino about 10 miles south of Laughlin, but we've spent the last few days at the Aquarius Casino in Laughlin where we had free rooms. It's been nice to get out of the trailer for a few days.

The weather has been great since our arrival in the Laughlin area. Daily highs have been in the 70s and 80s. We've enjoyed getting outside.

We also continue to take care of business. Even though we are traveling about, we still have grocery shopping and laundry to do. Yesterday I got a haircut and took the truck in for its 3,000 mile service.

We have one more week in the Laughlin area before we start our long journey back to Texas. Hopefully, we'll do some interesting things on the way home and I can share those with you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Leaving Las Vegas

Today is our last full day at Las Vegas KOA at Sam's Town. Tomorrow we pack up and head back to Laughlin. We are booked for the next 2 weeks at Avi KOA just south of Laughlin, which is where we stayed around Christmas. We also have 3 free nights at the Aquarius Casino and Hotel, so we will take advantage of that time to sleep in real beds and take real showers. Donna is looking forward to a hot bath.

After Laughlin, we start making our way back to Texas with numerous stops along the way. Right now the weather in Las Vegas is beautiful. The days are reaching the low to mid 70s while the nights are in the upper 40s. It should be a few degrees warmer in Laughlin with daily highs around 80 and lows in lower 50s. We welcome this warming trend. Winter in an RV can be uncomfortable. As soon as the furnace goes off, the cold begins creeping in as there is limited insulation. But we've survived the worst of winter and look forward to better weather ahead. We want to linger on our way home to ensure that Texas warms up as well before we get there. Sure, we may encounter a cold front or two, but those spells should be brief and few.

From Laughlin, we will go to Yuma, Arizona, and view the sites there for a few days. Our next stop after that is the Tombstone, Arizona, area. That place has been on my bucket list for a while. From there, we go to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where we will spend some time visiting White Sands National Monument. Next up is Carlsbad, New Mexico, where we will spend some time exploring the city and the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. We did Carlsbad Caverns years ago and have no plans to return there.

And we hope to get some hiking in at all these places. I'm especially excited about the prospect of hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains just south of Carlsbad. It will be early March when we are there and the wind may be a problem, but we'll at least check things out.

After Carlsbad, we'll drop in for a visit with daughter and her band of monsters. At last report, she said those precious little tykes were on their way to becoming hardened criminals. They seem to be giving her quite a bit of grief these days, and that makes them my heroes. I'll see if I can give them a couple of pointers while I'm there.

From there, we return to San Angelo for a week or so to take care of some business. We've not made any specific plans for anything beyond that time.

So, stick around for the trip. I hope we will see some great places and that we can take some good hikes. Of course, I'll try to share it all with you.

Until then, I'll see you down the road.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hike Report: The Historic Railroad Trail

Yesterday Donna and I hiked some of the Historic Railroad Trail near the Hoover Dam. The one-way trail is about 3.5 miles long, making the total distance for the hike about 7 miles (3.5 miles out plus 3.5 miles in). The trail is actually an old 30 mile railroad grade that connected Boulder City to the Hoover Dam construction project. Construction of the grade began in 1931, and the railroad remained in use until 1961. In 1984, this section of the railroad was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2015, it was designated a National Historic Trail.

The most unique part of the trail is the first 2.25 miles or so, which passes through 5 tunnels. Each tunnel is about 25 feet in diameter and about 300 feet long. Views of Lake Mead and the surrounding area are also impressive, and wildlife such as bighorn sheep can also be seen at times.

We began our hike at the Alan Bible Visitor Center on Lakeshore Road just north of Highway 93 a few miles east of Boulder City. This visitor center also serves as a trailhead for the River Mountains Loop Trail, a 34 mile developed trail. We did not hike the entire trail, but below are some pictures of the section we did hike.

Parking lot at trail head. At left are 2 composting toilets. Just up the hill to the left is the Visitor Center, which has modern restrooms and various displays.
This gate is about a quarter mile into the hike. The sign says, "DANGER Extreme Conditions! STOP Do not hike Jun - Sep HEAT KILLS"

Since this is an old railroad grade, the trail is wide and pretty level. You can see the trail weaving along the base of the mountains to the left.
My intrepid bride on the trail with Lake Mead in the background.
You can clearly see the water line in this picture. Yeah, the lake could use some water.
The first of the 5 tunnels. You can see the second tunnel from this vantage point as well.
Donna snapped this shot of me just before entering the first tunnel, with the second tunnel visible in the distance.
I tried to show the ribbed look of the walls and ceiling of this tunnel in this photo.
I took this photo from the Visitor Center. In the center-left of the shot, you can see the parking lot of the trail head. The trail itself is also visible as it weaves along the base of the mountains in the center of the picture, just a little above and to the right of the parking lot/trail head.
A marina on Lake Mead. Again, notice the water lines indicating how low the lake is.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Las Vegas KOA at Sam's Town

After our stay at Riverside RV Park in Laughlin (see "Riverside RV Park"), it was great to arrive at Las Vegas KOA, formerly Sam's Town RV Park. We spent a week here in October 2012 (see "Sam's Town RV Park"). Since then, KOA has taken over the park, and that's probably a good thing.

The park appears pretty much as it did 3 years ago. One physical change is how the sewer is set up. Previously, you placed your hose in the utility box, then slid a panel down to hold it in place. Now traps are available next to the utility boxes, and this is much better. Another change for the better is WiFi is now provided free, and it is pretty reliable. It's not the fastest connection around, but we never lost a signal. Cable TV is pretty good, offering 4 HBO stations, but it does not offer some stations we really enjoy, such as PBS and the Food Network.

Other than that, things are pretty much as they were 3 years ago. The place is well maintained, and all the facilities (restrooms, showers, pool, laundry, etc.) are well cared for. I only saw 1 washing machine out of order in the laundry room. For dog owners, there are 2 grassy dog runs. The pool also has a hot tub. Employees are visible throughout the day in all areas of the park. Office staff are efficient and courteous. Overall, this is a good place to stay, and rates are reasonable, unlike many KOA parks.

Boulder Highway runs right next to the park, and you can hear traffic. However, it did not keep us awake at night, and we really didn't notice it very much. There are sirens at all hours of the day and night along the highway. A Walmart is located right across the Boulder Highway, and various other businesses are located nearby.

The only real negative for me is there is no propane available in the park. Office staff said a vendor made rounds through the park twice a week, but a Costco card was required. I've never been to a Costco, so that was not an option for us. We found a U-Haul outlet a few blocks south on Boulder Boulevard and filled our tanks there.

Below are some pictures of the park. I did not include any in my post 3 years ago.

This is the backside of the office. Our site was located directly across from it, and I took this picture from our site.

Restrooms/showers near our site. There is another restrooms/shower on the south side of the property, and the pool area also has restrooms/showers.

One of the two dog runs in the park. That is the Eastside Cannery Hotel in the background.

There are quite a few trees throughout the park.

Most spots are back-in sites, but there are quite a number of pull-thrus that will accommodate larger rigs.
This building is in the center of the park. The fenced in area is the pool area, complete with hot tub. Restrooms/showers are in the center. On the backside -- not visible in this picture -- is the laundry.

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