Hot Springs, Arkansas

After an endless array of winding roads we made it to our destination on Lake Hamilton. I found out later that my phone was set to “avoid” interstates. As I backed the pick-up off the tow dolly and took off to bring the truck in front of the RV, I heard the sickening
“thump-thump” of a flat tire. Within minutes, other RVers and the management came to help Roger figure out where our spare tire was, how to extract it from under the truck, use a hydraulic tire wrench so we didn’t have to struggle more and the management brought an old fashioned commercial hydraulic jack. With lots of fellowship and friendship we survived another “disaster. Live and learn

Since Shy lived in Hot Spring with her family for several year, we embarked on finding familiar landmarks. Below is the 3rd house the Moseley’s lived in. It is now a law office but when she lived there it was white stucco with dark brown trim. This is the house where John burned his feet at age 2 on the “floor furnace;” Willard put a hasp and lock on his room to keep Harman out; Gus, a German Shepherd Mix, came to live with us; Harman had to walk to school (a whole block); Shy aka “Bamby” went to Hot Springs High School; Mom and Dad and Bamby worked at the radio station owned by the family.

The small brick was the 2nd house we lived in. It was across the street from Jones School (lower left )where Harman went to elementary school. And last but not least Hot Springs High where both Bamby and Willard went to high school. We drove around on several occasions to try to find Sleepy Hollow which was the 1st house we lived in in Hot Springs but to no avail.

Since Hot Springs National Park is now a part of downtown, landmarks are few and far between. The old Army Navy Hospital (two pictures at the bottom left) remains prominent. The diner George Leopolis’ dad owned is gone.

The Bath Houses (1st 4 pictures, l.to r.)remain and look spiffier than ever, Oaklawn Race track(middle 2 pictures taken from the car) has expanded and is super busy on race day’s blocking traffic in both directions. Bamby and her girlfriend Carol Ann or George Leopolis attended the race track often because the radio station had a feed from there. She was 14 and trying so hard to look grown-up. Lastly, the Arlington Hotel (lower r.) remains a staple of the downtown environment.

There is much that is new and interesting. The city is now famous for its “shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade … it’s one city block long … but as an additional “draw”, the parade sponsors often bring in “outside” celebrities such as the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Banners were up and crowd control barriers were in place for this event.

We were pleased to find a Latter Day Saint Church and enjoyed participating in the Sunday service. We were also happy to see these beautiful horses on ramp of the highway.

Our campsite was on Lake Hamilton and we enjoyed exploring the countryside and the lake itself. We tried to take a selfie since Roger’s camera wouldn’t work any other way that day. It was a peaceful and friendly place.

Across Texas to Dallas

Midland-Odessa

These two towns are pretty barren except for the numerous oil wells, oil well suppliers and many, many pick-up trucks and travel trailers. The only redeeming “quality” of the West Texas desert was the ever present “Oil Wells ” that were featured in the (very old …) movie “Giant” with Elizabeth Taylor as a young girl (…. and before her numerous husbands!).

We were planning on spending only one night here but Mickey started to be sick, and the only “walk-in” vet clinic was in Odessa about 20 miles away from our RV park. It was a first come, first served facility and we gave them our name and Mickey’s problem and they told us to come back in about 3 hours.

When we got back to the clinic we waited another hour. The staff was remarkable and found that Mickey had pancreatitis and had to stay in the hospital. She stayed the night and was released about 5:30 pm the next day with pills and a special diet. She ate it the first night and after than it was a “no go” but she was better. We packed up and left the next morning.

Abilene

The song says “Abilene, my Abilene, prettiest town I’ve ever seen.” That was not our experience. We found our RV park and got settled for the night. We were cold but had a small electric heater that circulated warm air. We set that and went to bed.

In the morning when we awakened we could see our “breath” even before we got up.
This was not a good start for the day. We set out to find another heater. The lady that ran the RV park told us that it was 16 degrees and it was the coldest that it had been in the last 60 years. We went to Wal-Mart, of course, but they were completely sold out of heaters of any type. We moved on to Lowe’s and found an oil filled heater and we were optimistic.

We talked to a repair person that the RV park recommended and he educated us about our RV. We have two heat pumps on the roof and they do not provide heat if the temperature is below 40 degrees F. We are to use gas heat below 40 degrees F. Well here is the rub. We had no propane on board. Roger was worried that the delivery charge would be too high so we didn’t get propane until the next morning. We bundled up and “toughed out” the night.

The Big “D”

With finally some sunshine, and warmer weather, we explored Dallas.

We found this wonderful Main Street Park and enjoyed the sun.

Afterward we decided to go to the Dallas Zoo. We had fun looking at the variety of animals they keep.

We stayed in a suburb called Mansfield, TX, south of Dallas, and found it to be a lovely community. We did some gawking and some driving and went to a movie because the weather was rainy and cool.

El PASO, TEXAS

El Paso is located in the extreme Western tip of Texas bordering on New Mexico. The countryside is a continuation of the desolate, desert environment that we had experienced from Southeastern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico … evidently God was tired after creating the world and the leftover-trash became this forlorn region that the U.S. should have left in Mexico when they were drawing the territorial borders! On the other hand, there are bountiful treasures of minerals, oil and strikingly beautiful scenery …. but then, beauty is in the “eye of the beholder”!! Shy was impressed by much of the scenery, the rock formations, the desert flora, the vivid blue of the pollution-free sky and, the ever changing cloud formations.

Upon arriving in El Paso, we made our way to the RV park that Shy had arranged for us to stay … she is very GOOD at finding us a nightly “landing” spot. These people were very nice and helpful. They had a technician who came to our “bus” and helped Shy get “her” TV to work. Oh happy day … now we can sit and watch TV all night!!!

El Paso itself was an interesting study of what a dominate minority population’s influence can be. Similar to visiting China Town in San Francisco, the Mexican culture is prominent and the “dual culture” is a source of pride.

As the pictures below show, these scenes could have been taken in Mexico City … like visiting Mexico, without leaving the U.S. Sidewalk sales are the norm in the Mexican section of the city, which we found interesting, if not unusual. On one street, it was particularly busy and we quickly discovered it led directly to the “border crossing” between the U.S. and Mexico. The closer you got to Mexico, the more congested it became, as people working and shopping in the U.S. tried to get back to their homes in Mexico. A thirty foot high chain link fence funneled the crowds of people into a dozen or so check points, where they showed their passports, etc. Those fences cut through the city in both directions like a big, ominous curtain, bringing to mind the “iron curtain” wall in Berlin, Germany. There are many similarities in the two “fences”. On one side there is peace, plenty and prosperity; with a sense of “justice” and protected freedoms. On the other side there is rampant corruption, unchecked crime, nightly murders, limited opportunity for the masses and a sense of futility as the drug cartels battle for turf and the authorities. When we were in Casa Grande there were other tourists from El Paso and they told us it was extremely safe due to the presence of the border patrol. We would have liked to have crossed over into Mexico, but the risks were too high. The media informs us that tourists were regularly kidnapped, almost daily, and held for ransom, or held up and robbed … so we chose not to participate.

We had to find a place called “Rosa’s Cantina” as it is a bar in a song of country singer, Marty Robins … Shy used to be a country singer at a cowboy bar in Jackson Hole, WY in one of her other lives, so she knows things like this … I recognized the melody when she sang it to me … (and she has a fantastic musical ability!!!) The lyrics start out this way.

Anyway, the bar was a disappointment as it was now a small biker bar … not very impressive!

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl. Night-time would find me in Rose’s cantina: Music would play and Felina would whirl. . . “

https://www,youtube.com/watch?v=7UVVS5-9HvA

The Tow Dolly

So after a couple hours of “scoping out” the city, it was time to “hit the road”. We had only driven 5-10 miles down Interstate 10 and were on the Eastern edge of the city, when a passing car honked it’s horn and pointed to the back of our rig. Again, we were truly blessed when we were able to immediately pull off the Interstate, cross a dirt strip to the frontage road and see we were in front of a small repair shop with a fairly large parking lot with numerous trucks, trailers and cars in various stages of repair.

Upon checking the tow-dolly with the pickup strapped to it, we smelled burning rubber and smoke was pouring off the very hot wheels of the tow-dolly. My first thought was that the wheel bearings had overheated and burned out. I walked over to the repair shop where there were about a dozen or so men working … all Hispanic and only one, luckily, who spoke English. He was extremely nice and sympathetic, immediately stopped what he was working on and offered to do what ever he could. He had a forklift lift the tow-dolly and carry it into the shop. He said they’d have to wait for the wheels to cool before they could see what the problem was. We asked him about local places to eat and he gave us directions to several local Mexican restaurants. He also suggested that we could go sight-seeing at the local Catholic missions in the area and come back later for the verdict on our tow dolly.
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The Missions

We had lunch at a little “hole in the wall” place … really good food and very inexpensive!! We visited two different missions, took pictures, rested in the peace and quiet of their shady parks, and had a perfectly beautiful afternoon.

The Soccoro Mission and Cemetery

San Elizario Mission, Museum and Park

Returning to the repair shop, we found that it wasn’t the wheel bearings, but the brakes had been locked in the stop position, and we had pulled it for 20-30 minutes with the brakes on. Yes, they could fix it, but needed to send out for the parts, which could be delivered first thing in the morning. He suggested that the owner had offered to let us park our RV inside their chain-link fence secure area. He said they had a guard dog, but all he did was bark and wouldn’t bother us. One of the employees lived in a small trailer within the fence, in case we needed anything….. of course, he didn’t speak English!! We gratefully accepted and moved our “bus” inside the fence, and settled in for an uneventful evening. The next morning we continued our sightseeing, and at noon went back to take the “dolly” over to a tire shop for two new tires arrange ford by English speaking welder who didn’t want us to get ripped off by a crooked shop… $250 later, we went back to pay our repair shop bill … a $175 for two new brakes. I tipped our “translater” $100 for all his help. My brother Garth later told me that we had gotten a fairly good deal on both the brake job and tires, as he had recently paid a lot more for the same thing.

White Sands

We had time, due to our good or bad fortune however you choose to see it, to visit the White Sands National Monument. We felt lucky to have the opportunity to experience this natural gypsum sand environment. (Gypsum is the raw material that “wall-board” is made from). The countryside was almost other worldly because it is an optical illusion. It looks exactly like snow and makes you feel cold even though it is about 75-80 degrees. It was quite the experience driving through this “white” Alaskan wilderness … with the Air Conditioner on high!!!

Returning to “civilization” , we found our equipment had been repaired and with the purchase of two new tires, we were good to go. We are learning to “go with the flow” and take advantage of every “problem” as an opportunity to “explore” wherever we are and find out more about that part of the world. We would never have experienced the kindness of strangers, the beauty of a “foreign” culture nor appreciate and recognize the blessings we enjoy on a daily basis resulting from our “trials and tribulations”.

Benson, Tombstone and Bisbee, Arizona

(The pretty, colored map above is in reality … redundant!! But, it adds a little “color” to our otherwise blaugh travels!!! FYI – the unmarked space below Bisbee is Mexico)

So after a couple of days of relaxation at the Picacho State Park and the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm, we meandered down the road to Tucson where we wanted to spend a few days exploring the “Big City”. But no such luck!!! There are so many “silver tips” … old, rich, grey haired senior citizens and their damnable RVs everywhere … that all the RV parks were filled-up and there was no “room in the inn” for us. Not to be defeated, we tootled on down the road (I-10) to a small farming community East of Tucson, by the name of Benson (I’m certain it’s named after some Mormon leader back in prehistoric times, as there are thousands of Mormons in this part of the world.) We stopped there because I had traveled these parts 20-30 years ago while working for the Army Hqtrs as an inspector. I knew that the highway going due South, went to an old mining town of Bisbee where there’s s huge copper pit that’s been dug out over the past hundred years and is sitting almost on the Mexico/US border. In addition, the road runs through the “infamous” Tombstone, AZ where Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holiday “ran amuck” at the OK Corral and killed the Clanston Gang … while getting one of the Earp brothers killed. But then, you’all saw the movie and already knew all this!

Tombstone, Arizona

In this day and age, the streets are no longer the domain of those bad guys and their “black hats”, but the omni-present tourist and their “selfie-phones”. They have a “reinactment” of the gun fight 4-5 times a day to entertain the tourist. And there are regular stage coach departures to view the city and “Boothill Graveyard.” The Chamber of Commerce enforces the “Wild West” image of the community to enhance the “flow of tourist dollars”… and they’ve done a pretty good job of it! The wood sidewalks, false-fronted buildings, hitching posts, some with horses tied up to them … instead of parking meters, and a l0t of costumed citizen walking the streets … some with white hats, some with black hats! It all looks pretty realistic! Even “boot hill” had some realistic looking head stones with “poetic” epitaphs scrawled on them. We had an ice cream cone and wandered the streets for an hour or so … took the stage coach tour … and headed South to the “big hole” in the ground.

Bisbee, Arizona

We weren’t disappointed by the sight of the copper pit …. It’s huge and deep!!!

The mine was operated for over a hundred years, but economic conditions makes it too expensive to run and its been closed down for 5-10 years.

When I was in college, I worked in a much smaller open pit mine similar to this … I was a wagon drill helper. There were ten wagon drills and we drilled holes about 20 feet deep and four feet apart. After drilling about a thousand holes, each hole was filled with regular commercial fertilizer (potassium nitrate) soaked with diesel fuel and one stick of dynamite with a long connecting wire. All the wires were connected together and then hooked up to an electric devise. When the switch was turned on … it ignited the dynamite, which caused everything to explode with a muffled roar, and the ground would swell up about 3-4 feet as the rock was fractured. Then the big excavators/power shovels would come crawling in and load the broken rock/ore into the huge “haul” trucks (as shown in the above picture. I was getting ready to tell my supervisor a sad story about my wife not wanting to move out to the Nevada desert to be with me, and so I was going to have to quit my job and move back to the city … (they didn’t know I was a “summer” college kid and it was time to go back to school). Before I could tell him I was quitting, the “pit boss” told me how impressed he was with me as an employee … and would I be interested in training to drive a haul truck??? It was something I’d always wanted to do, and it paid 50 cents an hour more. I was really torn … I hated school, and my GPA was in the toilet … we had some real money for the first time since we’d been married … and … I figured I could be a truck driver for six months and then quit and go back to school….YEAH, SURE!!!! Anyway, my (smarter than me) wife, Shirley, convinced me that it was too risky … that it’d be too hard to quit and I’d never make it back to college. So (with tears in my eyes) I told him my sad story about my “selfish” wife and that I had to quit. He said if I ever changed my mind, he’d hire me back. This was a “defining” crossroad in my life … I have often wondered what my life would have been, had I not gone back to college that summer!!

As we left the mine, we took a side trip into the town where the miners had lived. We never expected to find such a charming “berg”. The streets were narrow and crooked as they made their way up a small, steep sided canyon. The houses were stacked on top of each other in a haphazard way like toy blocks. Most streets were one-way and it was challenging finding your way out of the maze!

We were impressed by the blue, blue sky, with the copper mill and smelter long silenced, air pollution was not a problem!!!

Benson, Arizona

Benson, AZ is a non-descript agricultural community, located out in the middle of “No-Where” on I-10. Not much to see or do here. Unfortunately, the next morning we awakened to this sight, which made it memorable in our travels … SNOW!!!!! Not very much snow, thank goodness, but it was soooooo ccccooooolllllddddd!! … and to think that we were almost in Mexico made it ever harder to accept!! With all my “whimpering and crying” you’d never know that I’d ever lived in Alaska!!!

We only stayed in Benson, two nights and headed out for New Mexico and hopefully warmer weather!

Picacho State Park, Arizona

We were here when we went to Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch and decided that it was so beautiful we wanted to spend a few days in this setting.

This mountain peak’s distinctive shape has been a landmark for travelers in these parts for hundreds of years. It is also the site of the Western-most battle of the Civil War … where Union troops defeated Confederate soldiers trying to establish a fort to disrupt supplies going through this valley to the Union forces to the East and West.

With all this beauty around us we all enjoyed ourselves. The State has a Park at this location with both tent camping and RV accommodations, that were really nice, so we stayed two days.

We marveled at the size of the cacti and beauty of the desert … the Master of the House enjoying a few moments of relaxation in front front of the fireplace …. with his ever present guard dog …

Yes, we are in the “miserably hot and desolate” Southwest deserts … yes, it is desolate but it is the “middle” of the winter and, although the sun is shining it is still somewhat cool! Shy looks like she’d like to cuddle up to that cattus … which she says it’s no worse than me when I don’t shave!! Those holes in the cattus were made by a certain woodpecker type bird for drinking water stored inside the plant … luckily, we weren’t thirsty!!!

The Deserts of the Southwest

Since we were unable to find an RV Park in Phoenix, we moved on down the road toward Tucson, which is Southeast of Phoenix approximately one hundred miles. We traveled on I-10, which is the Southern most of all the Interstate Highways. Our “trail” meandered back and forth across some of the world’s most “Godforsaken” desert. I was born and raised in Southern Idaho, and thought our “sage brush” wilderness was what the “end of the world” would look like! After traversing the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas … Southern Idaho, Nevada and Utah look like the “Garden of Eden”!! I’ll never complain again about the distance between gas stations in our part of the West. We traveled through miles and miles of “cacti-forest” … which neither of us had ever seen before. Not really conducive for camping and hiking … and I’m certain the entire desert was populated with rattle snakes, centipedes, scorpions and a poisonous lizard called a gila monster. We never let the dogs go out into the “woods” to do their “duty” for fear they’d bring back a nasty “friend”!


We were unfamiliar with the variety of flora and fauna in this part of the desert but found this one barrel cactus aptly named “The Pineapple Cactus.”

CASA GRANDE NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARIZONA

In spite of what appeared to be a totally inhospitable landscape, the ancient native people had evidently lived and flourished in the Casa Grande area for thousands of years. The Park Service Guide told us that over a thousand people had lived in this community, and that this was but one of many such communities strewn across the countryside … where ever there was a source of water for the irrigation of their farms. They had an extensive trade network, where they bartered their food items for goods not locally available. They have found sea shells from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Rock tools and pottery from the Great Lakes and coral items from Florida. We found all of this to be fascinating!

Because of past looting and destruction of artifacts, the authorities have covered most of the sites with dirt, burying some as deep and fifteen feet, which we thought was a clever “act of preservation”!!! With the passing of time and availability of funds, these sites are then uncovered and studied. Again, we found this to be fascinating!! The very large building called “Casa Grande”, meaning “Great House” was built out of a particularly hard clay … that mixed easily with water and dries as hard as a rock … it took several hundred people, months to build this large structure … one basket load of wet clay at a time, stacked and shaped by hand. They had no metal tools and used wooden picks and shovels to dig the clay by hand, carried it in baskets on their backs to a water source and then on to the construction site. All of their buildings were similarly constructed. Through time, the major destructor of these artifacts has been rain water, i.e. rain melts “unfired” water based clay … fortunately it doesn’t rain much in this part of the world!! This explains why the Park Service constructed a “roof” over this major structure.


Coming back home from Casa Grande we came across this tourist attraction, stopped in and had a fun time petting and feeding the animals. Shy Girl had a blast!!! She was like a little kid in a candy store … she really loves animals!!! One of her favorites was the “Bird Cage” … a large, fenced in area where they kept these cute little, colorful birds called Rainbow Lorikeets, from Australia, that would fly over and land on your arm, head, shoulder or any other spot, to eat the food out of your hand. They gave her a little cup with “nectar” in it, with a lid so it wouldn’t spill …. she was told she didn’t have to take the lid off, because the birds were trained to pry off the lid so they could get to the “goodies” … and they were right … the birds could take off the lid faster than a person could!!!!

“ROOSTER COGBURN RANCH”

Although the birds were probably her favorite, she found the goats, burros, deer and rabbits to be irresistible.

CASA GRANDE, MODERN DAY ARIZONA GHOST TOWN

Half way between Phoenix and Tucson AZ is a “new” community, built in 2007, that is essentially a ghost town … reminds me of a pretty girl that got all dressed to go to a party, only to have the party called off!! As the “back-story” goes, there were plans to build a huge electric truck manufacturing plant in the area with a promise of thousands of jobs … the word got out and speculators bought up all the land in the area, and convinced “big money” in the big cities of Arizona to develop the town-site and subdivisions … hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on this “model city” … before the “shell game” imploded and the dream of easy money evaporated!!!! Whereas the big Mall and many small shopping strip malls are essentially vacant, the Walmart is doing very well, with it’s parking lot crowded almost 24/7. There are probably ten to fifteen thousand people living in the beautiful subdivisions … homes that would sell for $700 – $900, ooo in California are being offered for $150-$250,000. In time, the word will spread, and people will move here from California to retire … the climate is dry and not too severe, and it is conveniently located between two large cities … country living without the crowds!!

ROGER ON THE ROOF

Of course, things do not always go as planned. After an adventure in the “Ghost Town” we came home to find our vent cover on the RV broken. With Siri’s help we found the dealer in town and after much discussion and hand signals (LOL) we purchased the type of vent cover we needed and Roger put it on with very little effort other than getting up on the ladder and getting down off the roof.

It’s amazing how high the top of the RV is … about eleven feet from the ground up … but forty five feet from the top looking down. Whereas climbing up the ladder and climbing off onto the roof wasn’t too bad … I thought I was going to be “trapped” up on the roof of the bus for the rest of my life, as I couldn’t back down as easily as I had gone up … this growing old is getting to be more challenging as the days go by!!!

Las Vegas, Nevada

We left Quartzsite, late as usual, and got on the road to Parker which would then take us to Las Vegas. Roger and I were talking and admiring the scenery. After we had been driving for an hour we realized that we were on the wrong road. How could this be? We are intelligent people and experienced followers of maps. After the hour drive and 55 miles later, we were back to the fruit inspection station, and it became clear how it had happened. . . the California border. The Department of Agriculture wants to make sure you have no fruit to bring into the state to contaminate their crops. We were inspected and declared that we our handful of table grapes posed no imminent threat, and they did not confiscate them and incarcerate us. Directly to the right of the Inspection Stop was the highway we were looking for and we had gotten so flustered with the road, and DOA stop that we failed to notice that our highway turned abruptly to the right, and we continued straight instead of turning.

On the right road at last we headed toward Vegas but we were weary and it was late so we turned off at a rest area in Nevada and went to bed. No electricity, water, sewer, which meant no slides out. We were able to sleep well because we were so tired. In the morning we awoke to find ourselves in a beautiful setting of mountains and desert.

While it was cold, it was beautiful. The road itself was very good and I asked Roger if I could drive. [Giving up control is not one of his strengths.] I started driving and was doing fairly well until the road and scenery changed and I was on some awful, narrow, two lane, shoulder-less road with rumble strips on both sides and in the middle. Roger cringed every time I hit one of the rumble strips and “jerked” the steering wheel to get off. I continued driving as Roger got more and more nervous. I finally stopped and if he was going to divorce me it would have been then. He has had much more experience than I with winding mountain roads, and was somewhat justified in his “anxiety” as was I. As it was easier to change drivers, than taking him to the hospital with a heart attack, I LET him drive!!

Keyta’s look says it all

We finally arrived in Las Vegas with no further mishaps and located the RV park in which we had reservations … a KOA (Kampgrounds Of America) owned and operated by the Sam’s Town casino. This was pretty neat setup … a hotel (which of course we didn’t need), a casino (where we promptly lost $17.00), multiple movie theaters (with $5.00 tickets … we went to the movies every night we were there!) and a variety of nice restaurants for our frequent dining out. Below is the light and water show we watched in the Atrium of the Hotel. The steak was $35 dollars and well worth it.

We had WalMart right across the street and visited it frequently. We also made a trip to Hoover Dam and loved the view, water, the workings of the dam, we even found a lovely RV park on Lake Mead.

After a week of R & R (a military term meaning Rest and Recreation), we again began our journey. We decided that there was too much winter weather (as in … ice and snow) in Kanab, Utah, and the roads leading South were very inviting ! We reasoned that Kanab could wait until the snow had melted, and headed South to Phoenix, AZ… and so thus ends another “chapter in our “wanderings”