grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Saturday, April 30, 2011

22-30APR11 - Various Enroute WA (nv, ca & or)

Friday, 22APR, we departed Phoenix for the finally leg of our drive to the Pacific NW. First stop was the Riverside Casino in Laughlin, NV. Read our below BLOG entry about how Don Laughlin turned an out of the way motel serving cheap chicken dinners into the second most visited city in Nevada.

Saturday, we overnighted in Bakersfield, CA; & Easter Sunday we ended up at Happy Time RV in Dunnigan, CA. We are not sure how the permanent residents of the “park” were celebrating Easter, but we noticed they were setting up a rock & roll band outside & everyone was clearly drinking large quantities of their favorite adult beverage. Must be why they call it Happy Time RV? We noticed the gas station across the road had $3.99 gas & was mobbed all night long with customers coming off the I-5 interstate. Monday, 25APR, we overnighted in Redding, CA, at an RV park we seem to stay at every time we pass through on I-5 (see below BLOG link for more details on Redding).

26APR, Tuesday, we drove from Redding through two high mountain dry lake basins (aka Playas) to camp at Eagle’s Nest RV in Tionesta, CA. The object was to tour Lava Beds National Monument. Tionesta is near Tulelake, CA, & extremely remote. In spite of the remote location the owner of the RV park had a smart phone with an attachment to take credit cards, & when the transaction was done you signed your name on the smart phone using your finger as a pen & the receipt was emailed to you! Since there was some daytime left after setting up camp we took the Toad to explore the immediate area & Tulelake, a very small town (& we mean small).

Wednesday we spent all day at Lava Beds National Monument; the National Monument contains the largest concentration of lava tubes in USA (over 500 with more than 20 open to public). But the National Monument is not just lava flows & tubes, it is also the main battlefield of the Modoc War, 1872-73, the only Indian War in California, & Petroglyph Point one of largest panels of Native American rock art in the USA.

First stop as always was the Visitor Center to get info on the park & view the dioramas & video(s). From there it was off to examine several of the “easier” lava tubes. By easier it means no steep sections to climb up or down, & no crawling on your belly. Some of the more difficult tubes have passages that are twelve inches high! We then continued on driving on the park “loop” road to view Mammoth Crater & Hidden Valley. Next stop was the fire lookout at Schonchin Butte. Upon our arrival at the trailhead of the fire lookout we discovered the trail was about .7 mile straight up! At that point Corrie decided to take a break, while Dan decided to go for it. After narrowly avoiding a heart attack on the hike up, Dan was rewarded with 150 mile views of California, Oregon & the Sierras.

We continued the drive through the National Monument stopping to view the Fleener Chimneys, Captain Jacks (real name Kientpoos) Stronghold, & Petroglyph Point. At the Stronghold we learned the history of the brief Modoc War. The interaction between the Modoc Indians of the Tulelake area & the ever increasing European immigrants followed the path of almost all Native American tribes: first mutual cooperation & trade with the Europeans; then resentment as the Europeans settled permanently & took “ownership” of all the lands that Native Americans believed no one owned; & then finally armed conflict.

The difference in this tale was that the Modocs were forced to sign a treaty that moved them north to share a Reservation with the Klamath Indians in Oregon. Unfortunately the Modocs being in the minority were treated poorly by the Klamaths & even the representatives of the USA gov’t. This led Chief Kientpoos to leave the Reservation with about 160 Modocs & seek a Reservation of their own in the area of their traditional lands around Tulelake. Although he & his followers did not attack the “Europeans”; the newly arrived Europeans felt threatened & demanded the Army force the Modocs back to the Oregon Reservation.

Eventually the Modocs took refuge in the lava beds & tubes, & waged a guerilla action against the Army, holding off a superior force that was twenty times their number. The Modocs’ actions were widely publicized in the press back East gaining a large, sympathetic, support of the public. Unfortunately one of Kientpoos’s followers killed the senior Army representative during negotiations & the public opinion then turned against the Modocs. The Modocs that followed Keintpoos were eventually defeated & were not even returned to the Oregon Reservation, but shipped to Oklahoma. To this day the few surviving Modocs in Oregon & Oklahoma refuse to even visit Tulelake.

Trivia – who is the only USA Army General to die fighting the Indians (it is probably not who you think)?

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the Tule Lake Unit of the “WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument” created in 2008, to serve as a reminder of the hardships endured on the home front during WWII. As such the new National Monument has three separate sites dedicated to the home front: Pearl Harbor for obvious reasons; Attu Island & Kiska Island in the Aleutians because they were the only USA land occupied by the Japanese; & Tulelake, CA. Why Tulelake? Because it was the site of one of the ten War Relocation Centers used to “house” Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from “exclusion zones” on the west coast. The vast majority of these Japanese Americans (NOTE - if you were 1/16th Japanese, you were relocated!!!) were loyal to the USA but they endured the “home front” hardships of losing their freedom, their possessions & their businesses because of their race. Tulelake was selected out of the ten sites because - it was the largest; the only one to be redesignated as a Segregation Center (not a good thing); & the only one where martial law was declared (a really bad thing). Right now there is no funding & the few exhibits are in a temporary location with no full time staff. We hope to come back when the National Monument has permanent facilities, & spend some time learning more details about this sad chapter of USA history.

Thursday as we drove north to Bend, OR, we were treated to constant snow & sleet flurries; which made the drive more stressful than usual. After arrival at RV park Dan discovered that we were near the world famous Petersen Rock Gardens. So naturally we had to take off in the Toad (in the snow) to visit them. Born in Denmark, Rasmus Petersen (1883-1952) built his rock garden in the last 17 years of his life, in tribute to his adopted new country, the USA. He collected rocks, petrified wood, glass, and shells from around Redmond, OR, & began building replica structures at the age of 52. His creative Dementia Concretia eventually yielded a scaled-down Statue of Liberty, a U.S. Capitol building, & impressive Independence Hall.

That evening, or more correctly Friday early AM, Corrie got up to watch the royal wedding, while Dan stayed in bed & ignored the entire affair. By the time Dan did get up, it had started to snow again in Bend; which led to a debate about staying another day in Bend, or driving in the snow again? Thanks to the internet we could see the highway conditions further north were clear & dry. So the decision was to wait for the temperature to raise & then continue driving north. That afternoon we made it to the Yakima Indians’ Legends Casino in Toppenish, WA, without incident. Where Dan did very well, but Corrie lost more than her fair share!

Tomorrow, Saturday, back at cousin Steve’s & Bonnie’s in Kittitas, WA!

Friday, April 22, 2011

14-21APR11 - Phoenix, AZ (mesa really)

14APR, Thursday, was an uneventful drive from Ajo, AZ, to the Good Life RV park in Mesa, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix). We have been here before back in November of 2010. The reason for our stay this time is the same as last time. Dan has to fly out on a short business trip & Corrie would like a comfortable place in Dan’s absence. If you read our below BLOG entry about the last time, you will note that the park was just beginning to fill up with snowbirds. Now it is almost a ghost town because most of the snowbirds have “flown” north! Apparently there are only thirty or so full timers that are willing to endure the Arizona summer. Upon arrival Corrie took off on a grocery run, while Dan checked out happy hour.

As noted in our NOV10 BLOG there are a ton of activities offered by the membership association. But Friday, Saturday & Sunday we spent most of the time lying around the pool. Friday night we did try our luck on BINGO; & Saturday morning we visited two local flea markets.

Sunday morning we jumped into the Toad & took off to Tortilla Flats on AZ Highway 88, which follows the Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains. Tortilla Flats is at the end of the paved road & was the primary staging area for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam (Teddy not FDR) on the Salt River between 1905 & 1911. The Flats is a group of buildings constructed in a faux western style known for their barstools made out of saddles & their prickly pear ice cream (pretty good). Since the drive is very scenic, the restaurant & bar have become a “destination” for bikers & car enthusiasts. Beyond the Flats AZ 88 becomes 25 miles of treacherous dirt road all the way to the dam. The road is supposedly two way traffic, but many portions are only wide enough for a single vehicle! It was one of the most scenic drives we have taken, in spite of a few close calls.

After getting back on paved highway we stopped by the Tonto National Monument. This National Monument preserves the remains of two cliff dwellings built by the Salado people. While reviewing the exhibits a quote from the Park Superintendent’s monthly report of March 1953, caught Dan’s eye – “On a busy Sunday afternoon, a pair of ladies briefs were found adorning an ocotillo branch right on the main trail. If this proves anything, it shows that the trail needs more careful observation.”

Monday, 18APR (tax day), Dan flew to Baton Rouge for business, & returned Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, 21APR, we took off for a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ, & upon arrival purchased tickets for the “Insights Tour”. The original Taliesin was (& is) located in Spring Green, WI. At some point Wright’s doctor advised him to “avoid” future winters in WI. Having visited the Scottsdale area a few times, Wright purchased a very remote piece of land & began creating Taliesin West. From 1937 until his death, Wright spent the winters in Scottsdale, & the summers in Spring Green (the first snowbird?).

From pictures we have seen of Taliesin West, we mistakenly believed it was similar to other Wright structures; ie substantial walls made of local stone, interior walls & ceilings made of local woods, & large amounts of glass to bring the outdoors in (& vice versa). Turns out we were somewhat mistaken. The walls are made of local stone held together with cement; but these exterior walls only supported a lightweight structure of wooden beams & a canvas roof system. Since the canvas leaked at the seams, Wright had to device a system of interior gutters to carry the infrequent rains away. And the floor to ceiling window openings were not covered by glass, but by canvas panels or canvas covers when needed. It took a few years for the third Mrs Wright to convince her husband that glass was a good thing.

How he built Taliesin West is another amazing story! For many years at Taliesin in WI, Mr Wright had “interns” that paid Mr Wright a yearly tuition to learn from Mr Wright. When he decided on Scottsdale as the location for his winter home, he loaded all the interns into several cars he owned & headed south. (Later in his life, he had all his cars painted the same bright red! It must have been quite the sight as a caravan of red cars filled with Wright & entourage spent multiple days crossing the USA?) Upon arrival the only accommodations they had were eight foot by eight foot shepard’s tents, & no onsite water (let alone electricity). During their six month stay Wright would sketch out his designs & the interns would build it. It took four years before they had permanent water, a decade for power, & the phone service came after Mr Wright died.

The interns were also expected to prepare all meals, create center pieces, serve the meals & do the dishes. Once a week everyone dressed in formal attire (we’re talking tuxedos & dresses) for a formal dinner followed by musical or theatrical entertainment provided by the interns! This tradition continues to this day, but on a monthly basis. Today’s modern interns still follow a “snowbird” pattern while paying $30K in annual tuition. Not a bad price really when you consider this is for a full year not just two semesters, & includes room & board; with six months in AZ & six months in WI. And today the interns are expected to build their own “abode” in the surrounding desert; or if you have seniority you can claim an existing structure & modify/improve as you see necessary. So there are a few interns still living in 8x8 tents!

Almost all of Taliesin West was built with local materials or items Wright salvaged at little or no cost. A prime example of this is what appears to be old Chinese ceramic figurines depicting scenes from various Chinese Operas. They were used by Wright to delineate between different spaces & areas both inside & outside. When you see them you can tell they were found in fragments & pieced back together; & you assume they were antique (ie expensive) artwork Wright collected on his Asian travels. NOT! Turns out these were cheap items mass produced by the Chinese in the 1930s for sale by the Gump Dept Store in San Francisco; & Mr Wright learned that Gump had boxes of broken ones they want to get rid of. He had the entire lot shipped to Scottsdale & told an intern to put them back together; a task that only took three years!

A fascinating tour of beautiful structure, while learning about a fascinating American icon! Now we need to include Wisconsin in our RV adventures so we can tour the first Taliesin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

12/13APR11 - Ajo, AZ (organ pipe cactus national monument)

On our drive Tuesday morning, 12APR, on Arizona Highway 85 from west Phoenix to Ajo, AZ, we noticed a significant law enforcement presence the entire way. There were sheriff, highway patrol, & border patrol units every few miles? Upon entering the town of Ajo (pronounced Ahh Ho) we noticed that almost every business (including gas stations) had large signs announcing they sold Mexican Insurance. Turns out AZ Highway 85 crosses the border & heads straight to some lovely beaches in Mexico nicknamed Arizona’s Beach (more on this later). After checking into the RV park, Dan took off in the Toad for an exploration of the town & surrounding area. He discovered a beautiful town plaza & railroad station. Guess what the railroad was called? – the Tucson, Cornelia, & Gila Bend RR! Two blocks off the plaza was an old hotel for sale. Guess what its name was? – the Hotel Cornelia! Dan felt this was a sign that we were to buy the hotel, renovate it, & become permanent residents of Ajo; Corrie didn’t see it that way.

There were two beautiful churches constructed in the Spanish style & majestic high school called the Curly School. The school was abandoned for years, but now has been renovated & provides subsidized housing for artists. While listening to the radio in the Toad, Dan discovered Native American Radio, KOHN, 91.9 FM, voice of the Tohono O’odham Nation. He found it interesting, especially the news which was entirely about Native American matters throughout the USA! Nothing about the budget mess, radiation in Japan, war in Libya, etc.

Ajo never really had a “mining boom” like Bisbee, Benson, & other AZ towns. There was no significant gold or silver in the surrounding area to cause the explosive growth (followed by rapid decline) so typical of other western mining towns in the USA. Starting with the Native Americans, Ajo was always known for copper deposits. Unfortunately it seems that every time someone started to actually make a profit from copper, the prices would drop. Right now there appears to be little or no activity at the giant pit right on the edge of town. Guess what the pit is called? - the New Cornelia mine!

For the last few decades Ajo was making some money as a way station for tourists from Tucson & Phoeniz heading to “Arizona’s beach” located in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, MX, on the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California). Puerto Penasco means Rocky Port, but Anglos call it Rocky Point. Apparently the beaches are lovely & the deep sea fishing excellent. In the 1990s developers realized that this was an undeveloped area & was the closest beach to the citizens of Phoenix, Tucson & even New Mexico by car. So the building of beachfront condos & walled communities for the Anglos commenced. But even though Mexico’s recent drug war has not affected Puerto Penasco; tourism, & therefore the “traffic” through Ajo, is way down.

As a result of 9/11 & drug problems on the international border, the “big” business now in Ajo is the Border Patrol! Border Patrol vehicles are everywhere; cruising the roads, parked in the middle of nowhere, & appear to outnumber “civilian” cars two to one. In fact, about twenty miles south of town on the road to Mexico that cuts through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Border Patrol is building a big facility for their increased presence in the surrounding area.

Wednesday morning it was off to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. First thing we noticed on the forty mile drive to the Visitor Center was more & more Border Patrol as we traveled south. Corrie figured there were so many of them, everyone visiting the park should get their own private escort? Dan had three thoughts – 1) we were extremely safe & protected, 2) we might not be that safe, 3) it was very sad that our “demand” for illegal substances had brought the USA (& the citizens of Mexico) to this point. This last point was driven home when we learned the Visitor Center was named after Kris Eggle, a Park Ranger killed by drug smugglers in 2002. After visiting the Visitor Center & being reassured that the Monument area was safe, we drove the Ajo Mountain Drive (21 miles of dirt & gravel) & hiked a little of the Estes Canyon Trail.

As you maybe able to determine from the name of the National Monument, it was created to protect the Organ Pipe Cactus. But as you explore the park you will see that the Organ Pipe Cactus is vastly outnumbered by Saguaro, Cholla, & other cacti. So why the park? Because this is the farthest “north” the Organ Pipe Cactus grows in North America. While it is very “common” as you travel south, this National Monument is pretty much it if you want to view Organ Pipe Cactus in the USA. In fact, the Monument has been recognized by the UN as an “International Biosphere Reserve” for its diversity, rare & endangered species, rich cultural history & ecosystem of international importance. Trivia – what is a Saguaro boot?