Sunday, June 22, 2014

Christmas and Spirit

Early morning at the marina
Just a reminder that my worksite this summer is 3000 ft below the town where it's technically located.  I call it my summer in the hole.  But it's a beautiful hole ringed by the mesas and mounds of the Black Mountain range.  And I'm surrounded by the clean beauty called Lake Mohave.  Most mornings lately I'm up at 5.  By 5:30 I've hooked a leash to my neighbor's lab and he takes me on a 1-2 mile drag part way up the hill and back.  After a rest and some water on our return I usually go down to the dock and jump in a kayak to get in some paddling before the heat rises (it's usually in the low 90s by now) and all the jet skis get on the water.  The water is so clean you can look down and see the fish and turtles swimming under you.  And it is so peaceful until the boats get out.  The water surface is as smooth as glass until the winds pick up, but if I get out by 6:30 I can usually get in an hour or so of paddling before the hard winds get here.  Then it's back to Seeker for a shower and breakfast and off to work.

Except on my days off.  Then it's make a shopping list and gather up the laundry before driving 14 miles up hill and up above 3600 feet to town.  Now we do have a laundry at the rv camp but there's no internet signal at the camp so by coming to the one in town I can use the wifi signal there and get my uniforms clean at the same time.  That's usually about 2 hours of wash, rinse, surf, and fold.  Then on to another town for grocery shopping and odds and ends.  You see, the town of Searchlight has a McDonald's, 2 casinos, a new Mexican restaurant and a gas station.  But the nearest grocery store is in Boulder City, another 45 minutes north or Bullhead City which is another 60 minutes south (but there is a super Walmart there). 

So Monday I had the day off and was back from my morning paddle when my neighbor asked if I wanted to ride to Bullhead with him and split the gas.  Sure thing I said.  Along the way he decided to take the scenic route through Christmas Tree Pass, a road I had eyed before but was too cautious to take my little car through.  In his big truck it was an easy drive.  As we drove along I was thinking that I wish I had a signal to see what geocaches were around me because I was sure there had to be some.  We were driving across BLM land you see.  Then I noticed a tree along the road decorated with faded Christmas ornaments.  I started laughing and then my driver told me that years ago people started coming out to the pass and decorating the trees along the way to make the drive more fun.  It was certainly different that's for sure.

Soon we were driving onto National Park Service land and the home of Spirit Mountain.  The views in every direction were breathtaking.  We stopped at a  spot where we could look up to the top of Spirit and enjoy the views, the quiet, the spirit of the place.  Eventually we were back on BLM land and stopped at a short trail where I picked up some rocks I'm sure my grandson Aiden will enjoy.  Decided to start him a box of Nevada rocks to take home this winter.  Can I count that as a Christmas present? 

Eventually we made it to town, ate lunch at an IHOP, and headed on to Walmart for our shopping.  Then, since we had some items in the ice chest in the back of the truck and it's 62 miles back to the hole (without the side trip through the mountains) we didn't mess around.  By the end of the day I was tired but happy.  Hope I get back that way again, but the next chance I get I will be sure to load those caches on Christmas Tree Pass.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Settling In

Just realized it's been a couple of weeks since my last post.  I guess that's going to be the way things go for a while here.  I'm settling in to my summer home on Lake Mohave and while I love a lot of things about it, I miss having internet access.  Sometimes if I stand on my patio and hope around on my left leg with my tongue hanging out of the right corner of my mouth I can get a hint of a signal, but it seldom lasts long.  Guess that deserves an explanation.

Boulder City is filled with trivia about the dam.
After finishing up my tour of duty at Bosque del Apache, packing up, hooking up, and heading down to the Arizona/Mexico border to visit with my friend Ann it then seemed like a good idea to just wander around northern Arizona a bit.  By the last week of April I found myself in Boulder City, Nevada where I stood on the new bridge looking down on the Hoover Dam.  Boulder City is a cool little village really that reminds me very much of Old Hickory.  Both settlements developed around an industry and stayed small despite being in the shadow of large cities (Nashville and Las Vegas).  I really liked the area and thought why not stay here for the summer and play in the lake on my days off?  As it turns out the only position I could get was at Cottonwood Cove which is in the Lake Mead National Recreational Area (a very large area that straddles Arizona and Nevada).  At first I wasn't sure but then I drove out for a visit and well, as my friend Ann claims, I have a knack for planting myself at the ass end of nowhere.  This time I really did get to the ass end I think.  But it's beautiful.

Just west of Boulder City is highway 95 running south toward Bullhead City in Arizona and Needles in California.
Highway 95 is long and lonesome with little cell service.
About 9 miles above the lake and where I'm parked
for the summer.  See all that blue water?
About 30 miles down 95 is the town of Searchlight (population 539 plus 2 casinos, 2 convenience stores with gas pumps, one sketchy looking motel, and a McDonalds).  Take a left on Cottonwood Cove Rd. and keep going until the road hits the water, about 14 miles straight down the hill.  I'm not kidding about the hill.  The elevation at the intersection of the road and the highway is 3600' but when you get to my rv spot you're at 600'.  Be sure to chew some gum to keep your ears from popping!  And be sure to take advantage of the pull offs to just admire the view.  Rising cliffs on the other side of the lake are in Arizona.  Old played out mines dot the hills on either side of the road as you continue down.  Look out for big horn ship and an occasional wild burro as well as the usual desert snakes and scorpions. 

I am 43 miles down the river from the base of Hoover Dam and technically
I'm on Lake Mohave.  Folks come here from all over to stay in the motel right on the water (I'm the one who checks you in at the desk) or to rent big luxury houseboats and cruise the blue waters.  In fact, the cove is so big that you can see it from 12 miles up the road like a big blue jewel in the middle of the desert.  It really is a great spot to spend the summer.
Rental boats on the beach at the motel. 
  I'm looking forward to some good kayaking and swimming over the next 3 months.
 And every now and then I will drive up into town, but a happy meal, and sit in the back corner with my laptop updating the blog. 
And bigger boats for rent at the marina.
Until then.....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Visit to The Boneyard


So it was a cool, breezy morning in Las Vegas and I had just finished participating in a roadside cleanup in Red Rock Canyon with the local geocaching group.  Then I pulled out the GPSr to see what caches were close to me and started following coordinates and signing caches.  As I was
heading toward a cache near Woodlawn Cemetery I saw a sign that said "Neon Museum" and I took a quick right.  OMG!  It's the boneyard!  Well, not the real one because it 

Part of the sign that the daughter
danced on in the movie Vegas Vacation.
would be too dangerous with all that broken glass and metal everywhere.  The museum is the cleaned up version and while I don't usually spend money on guided museum tours I did here
(it was the only way they allow you to tour the sign yard).  
The museum is on Las Vegas Blvd within sight of the Stratosphere and housed in what used to be the lobby of the La Concha Motel.

The docent was very good.
Wonder if they'd notice
me taking this?
  The tour takes you through the yard where the signs are displayed and some are even cleaned up and lighted.  So without further ado,
I will shut up and just flood this post with pix.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Mother Road

A beautiful setting
A recent visit to Kingman AZ's visitor center was a real learning experience.  Most importantly I learned that the longest continuously still in use portion of Route 66, the so called Mother Road, runs right past there.  Of course I had to investigate.  From the California border 66 starts off in Topock and weaves gently through the countryside.  I stopped in at Havasu Wildlife Refuge but the spring winds were too strong for me to put the kayak in the water and paddle the canoe trail.  Ah well, back on the road.  Soon the road was not so gentle.  It climbed and curved and swerved.  I'm sure all the bikers I was passing
were enjoying it but I'm not crazy about it.  Good thing the speed limit was 45.  I noticed some crosses on a hill and took the turnoff to discover an impromptu veterans' monument on a very scenic spot.  Definitely worth the stop.

Hee Haw! Welcome to Oatman.
Next I pulled into the town of Oatman.  Once a thriving gold mining town till the government shut it down in
1942 due to the war effort.  When the miners left they turned their burros loose in the hills so today when you drive through Oatman and the surrounding areas you better slow down so you don't hit one!  In fact, a drive through town is really a creep as the donkeys are so used to
being fed by tourists that they walk right up to the car.  They also stop and poop/pee wherever they please.  Made for an interesting stop.

The next stop along the road is Cool Springs but for me it's the worst part of the road.  As the bikers say "Five miles and 120 curves" which of course makes them happy but I really was glad to get past it.  In Cool Springs there's an old gas station with lots of Route 66 memorabilia.  Really cool stop.  About 15 miles further and the old road crosses under Interstate 40, briefly passes through the older historic part of Kingman and then goes on east out into the countryside (and thankfully almost curveless) toward Hackberry. 

The old station at Hackberry is really fabulous.  Lots of old 66 signs and vehicles as old as the
highway itself.  Inside the ceilings are covered with license plates from all over: every state including TN (Blount Co.), lots of foreign countries (no doubt contributed by visitors), and I even saw one for the Panama Canal Zone and US Armed Forces in Germany.  The crowning touch is the 1957 Vette out front.  Wow, what a stop!!

And that's where I stopped.  There's still more to see but I ran out of time and energy.  You've got
my promise that I will be back to catch the rest of the continuous strip of 66. 

Another Day Another Sea

Finally, after 3 1/2 years on the road I made it to California.  And with gas prices hovering around $4.50 a gallon, I won't be staying around long.  I found a nice moderately priced rv camp just across the Colorado River.  The first thing I figured out is that I could go back across the river to fill my car up at the Flying J for $3.39 a gallon.  If you go early in the morning you hit a line at the pumps and most of the cars have California plates. 

Originally I had thought I wanted to camp in Yuma but this worked out better as it was closer and meant burning less fuel in Seeker.  Since she gets around 12 miles to the gallon when towing it seemed better to camp in Blythe and drive my car to Yuma for a day trip.  Which I did do.  But don't expect any great reviews.  I hit Yuma on a hot day with temps between 95 and 100 and also the opening day of their Centennial Celebration.  Bad timing is an understatement.  Perhaps I'll get back there one day.  Just on a less hot less crowded day. 

On a better day I did get out to the Salton Sea.  This place is unique to say the least.  It's an inland salt water lake basically, and while there are 2 rivers and agricultural run off that add to the sea, the only way moisture leaves is through evaporation.  And did I mention the salt content?  Try 50% more saline than the Pacific Ocean!  Once upon a time the lake was a fishing destination but with the rise in salinity only one fish, a tilapia, can live in the sea.  With the abundance of fish and decline in fisherman the Salton Sea has become a destination for lots of birds.  And that's what brought me here.
I only had a few hours to visit, but I did manage to see some great birds.  Oh, and with all those fish be prepared to face a strong fishy smell at the waterside.  Nevertheless, I thought it was a beautiful destination and hope to get back there sometime this fall or winter when the birds are really good.  Till then I have settled for sticking my feet in one more "sea".

Monday, April 14, 2014

Visiting Friends and Family

Of course I had to visit the local
cemetery.  Some very unique
headstones here.
In my last post I talked about being in southern Arizona to see some pretty gorgeous birds.  I was also in that area for another reason.  My good friend Ann was out here for an artist workshop so I made sure our paths crossed for a few days. 

The courtyard at Tubac
Country Inn.  Almost made
me wish I could stay there.
Ann was staying in a former ghost town that is now a well known artist colony called Tubac.  I caught up with her at the Tubac Country Inn which is a very charming spot.  If you are into art and get the chance to visit Tubac I highly recommend staying here.  Her room was spacious, nicely appointed, and decorated in southwest style.  The inn has a gorgeous courtyard where I met up with Ann and sat in awe of all the folks sitting around making jewelry, drawing the landscape, and doing watercolors in the garden.  I of course was briefly distracted by the Broad Billed Hummingbird. 
Later we strolled into town where the shops are filled with works from local artists and imports from nearby Mexico.  Her week was full with all the
Teresa does beautiful
mosaic glass work
like this.
workshop classes but we did get to have a day to get out and see some of the sights nearby.  And then she was off again and back to Nashville.

This bracelet is soooo
gorgeous and it has
a matching necklace!
My favorite piece of
Pat's beadwork. 
My time in this part of Arizona was done so I headed up to visit with family.  Pat and Teresa have been living in central Arizona for about 5 years now.  Their home is warm and cozy with a great back porch that looks out on a small lake which I of course used for some birding.  And once again I forgot to take pictures of us or them.  So I'm filling the gap with some pictures of some of their work.  Yes, you know I'm surrounded by artists out here.  It was a good week and Pat and I had some good visits.  I always love to hear him talk about Grandpa Wade and my uncles.  And now that Tina and her family (Pat and Tee's oldest) have moved out here they
are never at a want for company. 

Soon my week was over.  Time to move on down the road.  I hear Yuma calling I think.

WARNING: Bird Nerd Alert

OK, I try to spare my friends and family from my birding addiction, but my visit to Patagonia Lake State Park was so great I just had to share.  By the way.  I borrowed these shots from the park website.  You know I can't take pictures.

This lovely Arizona State Park is located only minutes from the Mexico border.  It's central draw is a gorgeous lake in an otherwise desert locale.  The campgrounds are full most of the year and the number of boats on the lake on a pretty day is probably in the triple digits.  Thankfully it's a big lake. 

This Elegant Trogan is a once in a lifetime
sighting.  Many birders spend days
looking for one of these.  Our
group happened upon 2!
The other crowd that is attracted to all the water is wintering birds, and that makes Patagonia a must do destination for birders any where near the lake.  After leaving all my wonderful friends and memories behind me at the Bosque this was my next destination to reach before the weather turned too warm and all the Mexico birds head back home for summer. 

So I went on a bird walk which means I walked around with a group of about 20 other bird nerds led by a local birding group leader.  We only walked about 2 miles round trip around the southern part of the lake but it took us just over 4 hours.  And
This little guy lives most of his life in Mexico
but does spend the winter at Patagonia:
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
We located him by his chirp which
sounds like the beep your microwave
makes when the popcorn's done!
my results?  I saw 38 individual species including 2 that I saw for the first time and that some birders never get to see. 

This Costa's Hummingbird was a ho hum
sighting for the local folks but for me it
was very exciting.  Arizona has 15
species of hummers!
OK, all done with the birding news for now.  Sorry if I bored any of you.  Hope some of you enjoyed my side trip. 

Next post?  Visiting friends and family.