Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chisos Mountains Drive and Change in weather!

Just like Alberta, when the weather changes here it can happen quickly and with a big drop in temperature from 95F to 60F! We were planning on a desert hike today as we knew the temperatures were forecast to be this would be the time for a desert walk!

However, early in the morning we were awakened by the noise of the wind. The high winds brought cold air and also blew lots of sand in the air. Our plan was to have a breakfast burrito at an outdoor diner and leave early for our hike. We chose not to have "sandy" burritos and headed for the park entance and the scenic drive to the Chisos Mountains and the Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant for brunch! It was the perfect thing to do on a windy day! What a delightful surprise in change of scenery from our previous mountain drives. These mountains have some of the highest elevation and because of their altitude and cooler temperatures there lots of trees! We were impressed with unique geologic formations, and spectacular scenery. The vegetation changes markedly over a short distance - from cacti through a zone with bushes and grassland, to fir and pine woodland. The road is quite steep and with hair pins turns with the speed reduced to 15 MPH. We were pleased when the road descended into the sheltered Chisos Basin and discovered a development including lodges, shops and camping areas. Now we know why were told that our motor homes would not fit the camps here! But we see why this is generally a popular location to stay in the park.

By the way, the Breakafst Buffet was very good and the restaurant had a great view though the sand made the background look hazy!

From 2009-02-28 Chisos Mnts

Here are some pictures of the scenery along our drive if you want to take a look.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Big Bend and Santa Elena Canyon

  1. We have driven many miles to get here and have finally arrived at our 1st much anticipated destination. We are booked in at the Maverick Ranch RV Resort for a week which is in the "community" of Lajitas. This is located at the southern point between the Big Bend Ranch State Park and the Big Bend National Park. Now that we are here...where do we start as the park is big and our general knowledge of this area is small.
    Friday morning we leave early in the cool of the morning (because of the 34C heat in mid day) to the entrance of the National Park and select the Ross Maxwell scenic drive which gives us a good taste of the Chihuahuan Desert and lead us to the Rio Grande River that is the border between Texas and Mexico. There are many scenic outlooks, vistas and flowering cacti to enjoy.

A highlight is the walk into the Santa Elena Canyon - one of Big Bends most scenic spots. We loved it!
We had a picnic lunch at the Castolon Visitor Centre and then completed our loop drive back to camp. We had supper at the L and D Diner where we know the food is good! Lyle cooked his Gourmet Wiener Creole (secret recipe) AND let all us win at the card game "Spite and Malice" also know as Your Neighbour! This retirement thing is not that bad after all!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Exploring the towns of Fort Davis and Alpine

Wow the weather here is awesome! Small towns at there best: Alpine pop of 6000 and Fort Davis pop of 1100. The combination of hills, valleys, creeks and desert has provided some of the prettiest country side that we have seen on this trip. We are reluctant to leave this area. Alpine has a terrific True Value Hardware store and John was lucky enough to fit in two visits and absorb the atmoshpere. He loves hardware stores! The IGA store is very well stocked and the staff......unbelievable. There is Sul Ross University and a great Big Bend Museum that Lyle and Dorothy enjoyed. This weekend the town will be full as they host an annual Cowboy Poetry Reading Event. We're told were will be missing something very intersting.
By the way I have noticed that not all the links to websites posted are properly hyperlinked but can not fix that until I have a Stable Internet connection. At the moment I have a limited connection so who knows. Jeff is right.....we need an Air Card!
The Town of Fort Davis may be small but it is absolutely the most quaint, homey, authentic western town thatI have visited so far. It has been in the setting of several movies and I can see why.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We are Loving it! Fort Davis, Davis Mnts and McDonald Observatory

It is spring here and the birds are noisy at 6 am and it is already 17C and going to 33C with sunshine. It is already a great day in Alpine Texas!
There is a scenic loop drive from Alpine to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory and back to Alpine that we chose today. Fort Davis is a frontier fort that was established in 1854 to protect the pioneers and travelers on the San Antonio - El Paso road from the Apache Indians, We found the setting of the Fort very interesting, The post was located in a box canyon near Limpia Creek on the eastern side of the Davis Mountains--where wood, water, and grass were plentiful.
The canyon wall is a backdrop behind the fort and you can see for miles (the Indian's approaching) from the front, It was an unique fort to explore.

This truly is a Scenic drive and we pulled off the road at rest stop and it was the Perfect Picnic Place!

North of Fort Davis located on the highest point in Texas is the McDonald Observatory
which is America's only world class telescope open for public viewing. The stunning scenic drive to the top of the mountain was as fascinating as the telescope. We now know more than we need to know about the complicated construction of telescopes and can hardly wait for family dinners to unload all this data! :-) We also now know that we should not go into darkened theatre style rooms after a picnic lunch even if the information is riveting! Every day we learn something new!

El Paso to Alpine Tx Monday

It was an early Monday morning with a 7:30 appointment at a Diesel garage for an air brake check. Taking your Motor "Home" to a garage is different from dropping your car off. We are without accommodations! I followed in the car and after dropping the RV off we went to Starbucks for a latte and a muffin. This is good. The Starbucks is located in an outlet mall and we have nothing to do but wait and no where to go! Oh well.....we'll have to shop! Wal Mart handy! It is a great day!

We are on the road at lunch time and it is a great day for a drive east. It is an easy drive even on Interstate 10 as the truck traffic is light. Since we need to head south we turned off on #90 and the drive is very quiet and interesting. By four o'clock we are now at Alpine, Texas which is a delightful little town that begs to be explored.
We can only stay here till Wednesday as they are full for the rest of the week. They have an event this weekend: "Cowboy Poetry Reading".
We are booked in at Lost Alaskan RV and you have to been here to appreciate the setting and the friendliness. The mountain backdrops, the pine trees, the spacious site, clean facilites, star gazing area and the people all contribute to make this a Five Star RV Campground. There are so few lights that checking out Venus and the Big Dipper is automatic. A local nearby attraction is the Marfa Mystery Lights (seen on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries), and John and Dorothy went to see them.
The internet reception is awesome here. What a treat as this is a first since we left home. most of my blogging has been early morning hours (4 - 6) to get enough bandwith to upload photos.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wow! A Great Sunday Country Drive!

Loop drive North to Las Cruces, NM to White Sands, Alamogordo, NM back to El Paso.
Have you ever been on a drive where you wondered: "Are we there yet?"
Sure you have! We seem to being running into that from time to time. The scenery was interesting and the "Organ Mountains" were recognizable because they do somewhat resemble Organ Pipes but we Albertans are spoiled by the grandeur of the Rockies from Banff to Jasper and most others are diminished by comparison. We are used to more variation on our mountain scenery and get restless too soon.

From 2009-02-23 El Paso to White Sands

What do you think?

From 2009-02-23 El Paso to White Sands

From 2009-02-23 El Paso to White Sands

The description for White Sands National Monument reads: Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and created the world's largest gypsum dune field.
It does not prepare us for this:

It was STUNNING! We were humbled! We loved it.
After playing in the sand we continued on and stopped at Alamogordo sand had a great supper at Chilis.
This was a great day!

El Paso Texas Feb 20 - 21

Arrival on Friday evening and then a Saturday morning shopping trip to Camping World. We are at Mission Hill RV Park on the south side and Camping World is on the far North.....about the distance from Red Deer to Wetaskiwin.
Lyle was shopping for a new bed as he needs more comfort for his back. He was in Luck! They were on sale! Good for Lyle! We toured Historic Downtown El Paso and found that the shopping area was not as tourist friendly as we were comfortable with and did more of a driving tour vs the walking tour that we planned. We had thought of going on a trip to Juarez but were informed that the "Cartel" had been active in El Paso and tourists were being advised not to go. The bridge between the two cities had been closed a couple of times in the last week. Hum.....not too safe.
That explains all the Border guards on our drive in...the drug cartel has been busy! El Paso is a city of 650,000 while the Mexican border city is 1.500.000. Very Interesting!

Expect the Unexpected! We were looking for a late lunch stop and drove by quite a few well know name restaurants and missed interstate turnoffs so ended up in a "questionable" neighborhood but peeked into a couple establishments.....we were in an "adult" area (better for Pat & Daune) so continued on. We walked into "Chih"au and received fantastic hospitality, great service and wonderful Mexican food! We'll try this one again!

Driving to El Paso, Texas Fri Feb 20

Another intersting days drive. The route that we chose is off interstae 10 and via Highway 9 which follows along the Mexican border. To say that this is a quiet road is an under statement as the traffic is less than slight... we did meet s couple from Stoney Plain, Ab at a rest area. They also noted that only Albertians chose this quiet(desolate?) stretch of highway.The traffic mainly consisted of Border Patrol (13!!) and FBI vehicles. A border patrol did stop to make enquiries when we stopped for a stretch.
From Bisbee 2009- 02- 13 to 17

We stopped to take a picture of the scenery.....this interesting tree!
From Bisbee 2009- 02- 13 to 17

We looked for wild burros...but only found this ass!
From Bisbee 2009- 02- 13 to 17

No kids...I really wasn't that bored!

Slaughter Ranch and Douglas

Thursday Feb 18 - Slaughter Ranch is a landmark of Douglas and Cochise County and is on the list of places you must see in Cochise County. The drive to the ranchwhich is 15 miles N/E of Douglas is on a gravel road and we have never had the Honda Element so dust covered! We were not sure if the rugged terrain drive was worth our time & trouble (we have already driven by miles of the same) until we drove through the Ranch gate and into a splendid picturesque verdant valley. This 100,000 acre ranch survived many a drought because of a natural spring that John Slaughter dammed in the spring and created a water reservoir (later a stocked pond). Slaughter's history was as mean and tough as the area and there are lots of suspicions as to how he gained his wealth. The farms borders Mexico aand after his death a large parcel of land was reclaimed by the Mexicans.
It is an excellent example of an early life on a ranch...great buildings and setting.

The town of Douglas with a population of 18,000 is a quiet but charming border town. Smelters were built here to process much of Bisbee's Copper. The money that was generated by the wealth from the minerals in this area is evidenced by the Hotel Gadsen. We chose this place for a late lunch as our friends the Koziols shared stories of an earlier trip and said that a visit to this hotel was a must...and it was!
What a has a stunning, elegant lobby with huge marble columns topped with gold. At the top of the expansive marble staircae is stunning 42 foot stained glass Tiffany mural!
The restaurant in the hotel was excellent and still very busy mid afternoon. Thanks for the tip Joe & Janice...a fantastic finish to an interesting day.
From 2009-02-21 Douglas Feb 18 - 20

From 2009-02-21 Douglas Feb 18 - 20

Queen Copper Mines at Bisbee

Known for its mineral wealth, Bisbee became known as the "Queen of the Copper Camps" in the late 1800's. The signs of an earlier mining town is evidenced by a very large Open Pit Mine on the edge of town and the "Copper Queen Mine"

The tours are conducted by " Miners" who worked in the mine for decades. The very informative man that was our guide is a third generation miner. It gets in your blood......he said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough Too Die

The Wild, Wild West is here! Monday afternoon we pull into Tombstone RV and right off we notice the quaint, homey atmosphere and adjust our expectations to old time western hospitality. We mosey into Tombstone and walk down the dusty, dirt covered main street and try not to fake draw our six shooters. . John & Lyle are excited & reminiscing about their favorite old western TV shows and their "Gene Autrey" pistols with holster that Santa brought several Christmas's ago! It is sunny, quiet late Monday afternoon in Tombstone and the town looks like one we have seemed in a Movie......probably you too.
From 2009- 02- 13 to 17

From Tombstone AZ
The Earp Boys and Doc Halliday add to the Old Wild West ambiance. The town survies on tourists and the merchants all play a role.

From Tombstone AZ

John is learning a card game called Faro from this Old Timer....oops I mean Doc Halliday! :-)

The Last Few Days at Casa Grande

The panic is on...our days are limited at Casa Grande! Both motor homes are being cleaned and waxed by John and Lyle and they are gleaming in the bright sunshine. We know that some of the towns we will be visiting on our trip east are quite small so "stocking up" with groceries, beer and wine is essential and a fun thing to do!
Friday Feb 13 is our day for the Mesa Market and we are looking forward to the trip.

From Mesa Market Feb 13 2009

The market is huge with four buildings and several hundred stalls, Our walkie talkies come in handy as we often wander off and lose each other in the growing crowd of people.
Of course we all have our things of interest.......especially John as he loves the selection of TOOLS (aka...stuff) ...this is Mecca!

From Mesa Market Feb 13 2009

Look at the smiles on Lyle and Dorothy...they already found there first treasure!

From Mesa Market Feb 13 2009

We always shop for Grandkid stuff......and neglect their parents! Oh well!

From Mesa Market Feb 13 2009

The other reason we enjoy the trip to Mesa is the late lunch stop at Queen Creek Olive Mill Restaurant! The selection of stuffed olives and olive oils here make our heart sing....our is it the great lunches here? You must try this place...if you can find it as it is off the GPS grid but they have good directions on their website. And yes we bought stuffed olives to serve at family dinners Sherry and De!

Saturday is Valentines Day and it is just another reason to get together for food and drinks and we are hosting Lyle & Dorothy for a Valentines Dinner. I love the planning aand the cooking and it starts out simple enough with the food preparation for Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk and Brownies with Caramel Sauce. Saturday morning I am helping Alex & Alison Richards send photos to their son and it just makes sense to include them for the Valentines dinner. When our next door neighbours, Jack & Gayle Olson, arrive home later that afternoon from Tuscon.....well we can't leave them out!

Dinner for Eight in our Motor Home is what it is! The guests arrive with wine; Jack with his large brown jug of Scotch and we have a Party!

Sunday was a quiet day in our area. However, we all get together for Happy is tradition here and we are on the road tomoorw. Dinner is Chinese food at Luckys Restaurant which we discovered last week. Thursday we enjoyed lunch at a new Mexican Reastaurant "Eva's"....we will come back to this one another time. Beautiful decor and great food.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quiet Days in Casa Grande

Tuesday Feb
Our day started with a Newmar Breakfast at the Holiday Inn where we had the chance to visit with 40 people and to share our common interest....our RVs made by Newmar! It actually is interesting to visit with other people who have been traveling in their RV for 10, 15 and sometime 20 years. A lot of them are seasonal travelers like Canadian Snowbirds while some have sold their main place of residence and their Newmar RV is "home". They share advice and great stories of places visited. We attended the "Newmar" breakfast last year plus we recognized some new friends that we met at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.

The wind cancelled our Pickle Ball Game so we attended the resort "Craft Show" which was so well attended that it was almost impossible to get close to inspect the interesting crafts that were on well stocked tables. That saved me some money as I am not inclined to wade through people to buy a "pot scrubber" or a "table runner" even if I could use them! We were impressed with the talent and output of the crafters.

Free time is shopping time! There is a new "Outlet Mall" about five minutes from our park and I can always find an interesting "treasure" for the motor home in "Bed, Bath and Beyond". The new Target store has the variety in storage container for odds and sodds for our use. All RVs have limited storage space and the right size container makes quite a difference.

Take a look at this Website and you will see the selection of shops available for poor weather days! Let it rain!

Lyle and Dorothy have friends visiting: Ron and Yvette Burndred, aka the "Mad Butcher" from Innisfail and since it is now mid afternoon it is also Happy Hour. We have met Ron & Yvette before and we know that their stories are very colourful and extremely humorous! Ron and Yvette are visiting in the area and have their new "Goldwing" with them so will be "on the road". Who knew that an abattoir would provide such fodder for great tales! Gotta go!

Monday Feb 09/09 The weather is cool and windy and 62C (16C) feels quite chilly for even us Canadians after 89F(31C)last week . Flagstaff and Sedona received record snow falls in the last 2 days......29 inches for Flagstaff so it is easy to accept that the weather system brought us heavy rain over night and cool and windy days! Monday morning is a great Computer/Blog day for me and it is a good thing that I am not distracted by great outdoor weather as it is back to square one to create a Blog, upload photos to Picasa Web Album and insert photos and web address links!
The computer room is a quiet place to work but there were several seniors with that desperate "can you help me" look for me to get much accomplished. I did help a nice couple "download" tutorials for their laptop & their camera so they could get ahead on their own.
Lucky for me our Motor Home is also a pleasant place to catch up on my Travel Blog!
Monday afternoon was a great time day to explore other RV parks so the four of us toured the area and discovered that while there are a lot of alternatives none of them are close to the caliber of the park that we are in......though all are less expensive,
One of the highlights of our tour was that I met Suzan (Don) King's sister, Candi Schopfer who hails from Chauvin, Alberta. Candi and Neil have enjoyed Casista Verede RV Resort for several years. Candi has the same warm hospitality as Suzan and she shared valuable information's well as her tea! Thanks Candi!

"Running Of The Gourds"

Did you miss it? The Wuertz Farm's 6th Annual Gourd Festival that was on the weekend of February 6 -8th at the Pinal County Fairground!! Well we didn't! Who knew all the artistic creations that talented people can make with a Gourd?
This is a well attended event that is not just for gawking tourists. It is a judged event for the artists and place to them to display their wares, offer classes, buy gourds for their next project and visit with fellow artists and suppliers.

Check out

Monday, February 9, 2009

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort

Tuesday February 3 - We arrived in Casa Grande after lunch and picked up our Motor Home that had been in storage since October 2008. We forgot the code to the gate to get in and had to wait for the mamanger to return. I had picked it and said "we don't need to write this one simple!" Next time we will WRITE it down!

This is a Favorite Rv Park for us and Lyle and DorothyKilpatrick who are already here and we are looking forward to connecting with them again.

The Park is extremely well kept, a golf course, swimming pools, hot tubs, lots of activities and the friendliest people! There are lots of Canadians and more importantly lots of Albertans. In the section we are in the Albertans are from the Red Deer area. We are parked next to the Kilpatricks and on the other side of us are the Olsens, farmers near Pine Lake & at the end of the row are Alex & Allison Richards who farm near MacKenzie subdivision.
What a Welcome - Gayle & Jack Olsen hosted Happy Hour & Burgers for the Red Deer group on our first night and on our second we were hosted by Lyle & Dorothy!

Our first week in Palm Creek is busy with activities, happy hours, BBQ's, shopping plus getting the RV ready for a months trip to Texas. The RVers are younger and more activity than some of the parks so there is always something to do. The "Activities" room has posted over a dozen different scheduled activities.....sports, hobbies, crafts, etc. We signed up for Pickle Ball lessons as how strenuous can that be? Well.....ask Lyle as he called it "Cripple Ball" and limped to a Chiropractor for an adjustment after the 1st week. It is a lot of fun.

We seem to enjoy Happy Hour and Dominoes the best! Hum what does this mean?
Here we are having a pleasant evening with Larry/Eunice Leasak, Art/Norma McMullen and Lyle & Dorothy. We sat on the patio playing dominoes till 11.00 on thursday evening!

At Last! On the Road to warmer climates!

It is always great to drive south on a day that another winter snow storm is blowing into Red Deer, Alberta! On Thursday January 29 we headed to Calgary to visit Joe Koziol (& Janice) who has been in the Foothills Hospital since Dec 08/08. Joe is now on the way to a full recovery! Way to go Joe!
We drove out of the 4 inches of fresh snow about Olds and onto dry pavement which luckily stayed dry all the way to Casa Grande, Az.
We over-nighted at Joan's (John's sister) in Calgary and enjoyed her famous lasagna and pictures of their Mexico visit at Christmas. Thanks Joan & Brian!

Our 1st day of travel was from Calgary to Idaho Falls. Our drive through Idaho was picturesque with fresh snow covered fields and ice frosted trees (but dry roads!).
Day two we drove into warm weather and brown desert country side as we drove into Mesquite (25C).

We stayed at Virgin River Casino and Hotel
where only one of us(John)was slightly lucky at the machines! The rooms are adequate and clean but the casino is tired and too smoky. The Eureka next door suitrd us better soo check it out if you are looking for rooms and a fun evening in Mesquite.
The development in Mesquite has been recent and the residential area that we drove through had some attractive houses at very affordable prices. If you are looking for a fairly quiet, casino, desert town with resonable cost housing, hotels & meals this may be for you.

We are in Holiday mode and Day 3/Sunday is a short trip to Laughlin, Nv where we booked into the Golden Nugget Casino

We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Hotel Lobby, Rooms and Casino! For non-smokers the casino, bars and restaurants are really pleasant! We spent a fun afternoon at the sports bar watching the Super Bowl with some very loyal, boisterous, colourful Cardinal Fans. There were two very knowledgeable "armchair" quarter back coaches who added a lot of colour to the game. We finished watching the game in the Joe's Crab Shack downstairs where the fans were younger & noisier.....and having even more fun!. Weather has been warm & balmy for the last 2 days! Yeah! This was a fun day and I was putting in time at a Penny Machine and won $120.00!
This was encouraging so I continued and so did my winning was a Hoot!

Monday Feb 2 - Laughlin to Sun City West, Az

It is a beautiful sunny 28 C day and we are delighted that we are able to spend a day/night with our long time friends, Jim & Jean Jones who live in north/west Phoenix in the retirement community of Sun City West where the roads in the subdivision allow for golf carts on the main streets! Jim and Jean's house backs onto the golf course and I watched a humming bird splash in their fountain outside their kitchen window! It is lovely here and Jean's makes the best Eggplant Parmigiana in the Mid West......probably the US! Jean is recovering from December back surgery and is having an amazing recovery! Click on the photo to enlarge.

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