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Monday, December 23, 2013

Mt. Lemmon, Arizona

Mt. Lemmon was the next all-day adventure. (Warning, picture heavy post) Who would have thought that outside Tucson, AZ, known for its warm climate, was a 9,100 foot mountain and Ski Area. It sure seems out of place, but it was a beautiful drive and a pretty day. Off we went, climbing almost 8,000 feet in about 21 miles. The road is a great two lane paved, though narrow in some places, and on this day, heavily traveled by bicyclists. 
Bicyclists pedal toward the top of Mt. Lemmon
There are ample pull-outs and view points along the way. As always I took a number of "windshield" pictures during the trip. The start of the road, called the "Sky Island Scenic Byway" 

starts out at the general elevation of Tucson, about  2,389  feet above sea level.

As the road climbs out of Tucson proper, you see the cactus, mostly saguaro, anchored in the desert landscape. 
Saguaro Cactus along the road and hills
Looking out over Tucson, you get an idea of just how high you have climbed in just a few miles.
Overlooking Tucson
I have a friend  who had a buddy that lived on the lower portion of this very road. My friend told me of times when he and his buddy would take their wives up this road, my friend driving a Corvette and his friend driving a Ferrari.  The speed was above the posted limits (probably well above) and it included screaming wives telling them to slow down.  As you will see this road is not for the feint of heart. 
The cactus in some areas looked like sentries standing guard in the desert. 
Saguaro Cactus standing tall
 In other places they look like they are just trying to hang on to the cliffs.
As we continued to climb up the mountain, we noticed a distinct change in the ground cover. We were not win scrub brush and Oak. At the Molino Canyon Vista we found this sign that explained the transition.
Looking around you saw little cactus, a some green scrub Oak and other species.

Then as we continued it seemed like a dramatic change to HooDoos and a little scrub greenery. 

That is the road at the top of the picture

Different colors of the rock in the cut

Here you can see the road double back
Again, we found several pull outs and actual view points on the way up. Including this one where this couple is probably feeling like they are on the top of the world
I know I did. Soon the HooDoos gave way to Pine trees typical of high elevation mountains. 
The beautiful colors of the rock in the wall

Up at the Ski area 
we found a restaurant called the Iron Door advertising homemade pies. So, we thought that we would stop on the way down from the end of the road.  At the very top, the University of Arizona has an Astronomy Center - called the "Sky Center" it however was behind a locked gate. 
This area, as you can see in the pictures, was subject to a fire a couple years ago and the damage is still evident. Unfortunately for us, and about a dozen other people that stopped, the restaurant was closed. The sun shining in the window illuminated the "Open" sign, and if it had not been for the hours listed on a small sign by the gate, we would have found the door locked.
Headed back down the mountain, we discovered the little village of Summerhaven, which is also known as Mt. Lemmon. Located next to the post office a rustic looking restaurant called the Sawmill Run.
We went in and had a piece of pie and we were not disappointed. This little community has a couple of shops and is made up mostly of summer and/or winter cabins. A cute little place at the top of the mountain. The drive up the mountain had taken us something like three hours. The drive down, about 45 minutes. If you are in Tucson, this is a great little side trip, the views are outstanding. Of course, I wanted to take a different route back that would have taken us to Oracle Junction, which is north of Tucson. In checking with the locals, they stated that it was about 20 miles - known as the "Control Road" and would take about two hours. Had it not been 4PM already, that is the way we would have gone home.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rincon Country (West) RV Resort - Tucson, AZ

Our next stop was Tucson, Arizona. We had read in Family Motor Coach Association magazine about a 55+ RV Park (actually two of them) called Rincon Country RV Resort. There is an east resort, located on the east side of Tucson and a west resort located on the west side of Tucson, just off I-19. These resorts intrigued us, as they offered all sorts of activities for the residents. The west resort includes a wood working shop for the residents use.  We were also kind of looking for a place to spend time during the winter after we retire (OK, so we have 60 more months to work). Some place a little warmer than Lubbock. Yuma, Tucson and the Florida Keys and maybe even south Texas are currently in the running. I'll warn you now, this post is picture heavy.

Deb and I have stayed several times at what are considered "high end" RV Resorts in the past. Mustang Island and Lake Havasu City were both in the $50-$70 per night range. For this price you get nice paved roads, beautiful landscaping, controlled access and, location. We were convinced by our friends Dan and Cindy to join Passport America as it would be a great cost savings. Well, they were correct. Using Passport America for our stay at Rincon Country West reduced our stay total by about 50%.

The first thing we found after passing through the staffed entry gate was beautifully manicured landscaped curbs and dividers. 
Looking out the "gate."
Office is on the right

This beautiful setting continued well past the office into all of the park. This park, like the one in Lake Havasu City is a combination of Park Model homes and a section for Recreational Vehicles. Inter-mixed on some of the streets, (probably lot owners) but, for the most part in a separate area.

Looking down a nearly empty RV Section.
Typical RV Spot - Back In

They also have a separate section for RVers with Pets. We were fortunate to stay in the pet section even though our dog was at home.

RV Pedestals in the Island - One RV each side
These are Pull Through sites - quite pretty

Another view of two pull through sites
There are four (4) Pull Through sites around each "block."

In the information packet provided at check in (could almost be a binder) they provided a list of upcoming events that were taking place. Since we were there just before Veteran's Day, one of the events was a pancake breakfast to honor all of the Veterans. There were various exercise classes offered, from Yoga to Pilates. There was a swimming pool Shuffle Board Courts,
Courtyard at office area - looking toward pool.
Swimming Pool area - dressing/changing rooms on the right

Shuffle Board Courts
plus Bocce Ball, Tennis Courts, Basketball courts and even a model Railroad group.

Just a part of the model rail line
Great detail and engineering!

They also have at least two laundry facilities

 which were very clean and an activities office to get more information on what activities are going on, what to see and the like.

The people, both staff and residents I talked to were friendly and outgoing. One of the gentlemen I talked to, as he was helping to clean the Shuffle Board Court, said that he and his wife had started coming here in an RV. When health issues made it difficult to live/travel in the RV, they bought a place here and come every winter. Deb and I used this for a base as we explored other areas of Tucson, so we really did not make use of all of the things this park has to offer. But, we will be back here - probably before we retire.

Monday, November 25, 2013


In Yuma we settled into the driveway of our friends of nearly 40 years, Dan and Cindy. Dan and I worked for the same Sheriff's Department in Washington State nearly 40 years ago. We both took a test at a Sheriff's Department in the Olympic Peninsula, Dan was hired and later became Undersheriff then County Administrator. I stayed where we started, became Undersheriff and eventually moved on into other Public Safety fields. Dan and Cindy have had a "winter" home in Yuma for many years. We found this out about six years ago on our first adventure to Arizona. We ran into them in, of all places, the historic Yuma Territorial Prison. Trying to keep Debbie and Cindy quiet at that meeting was impossible.  We had visited Dan and Cindy about two years ago, and at that time tried to squeeze our motor home through a 10 foot wide gate, off a 20 foot wide road. Did not quite fit. This time I maneuvered through Dan's 18 foot gate and 30 foot wide road with ease.
Snuggled into the driveway
With electric and water, we were set for adventure.

While we were in Yuma we did lots of miscellaneous things, besides spending time visiting. A trip to Algodones, Mexico was one of the sites. 
One of the busy streets in Algodones
Dan and Cindy have been going here for years and know many of the shop owners. It is an interesting experience. But, with temptations like hammered silver earrings, and hand crafted Tequila, it can be an expensive outing. When we were here two years ago, a Driver's License was all that was required to cross the border back into the US. Now a Passport or enhanced Driver's License is required. This is the second time that Deb and I have been to Algodones. Both times with Dan and Cindy. Not much appeared to have changed. I felt more comfortable on this trip than in past trips. Probably because of the comfort level that Dan and Cindy have with visiting there. Algodones survives on the snowbirds. The number of Americans and Canadians that frequent the town is amazing. 

Restaurant Yuma in Algodones
For this reason there is a visible presence of Police and Military. Dental work, glasses, prescription (non-narcotic) medicine, along with the liquor and jewelry keep the town alive. One of the things that you have to get used to is the number of people trying to get you to buy their wares. You have to learn to just keep walking, and accept that they might follow you a block or so to try and convince you that you need what they have. And if you are sitting down eating at a restaurant, be prepared to have vendors come up to your table and try and sell you things. Negotiation is another skill that is helpful. Don't settle for the price stated the first time. And treat them with respect. Like anyone, they have goods or services you want so treat them the same as you would treat people north of the border. When you cross back into the US, there can be long lines waiting to get through. Like everything, the wait time can hinge on the number of Border Patrol/Customs Agents that are on duty and how long it takes for you to show your passport and display what you have purchased

Part of a day was spent exploring a couple of flea markets in Yuma. One had vendors of new merchandise of every shape and size. From kitchen utensils to just about any RV accessory you wanted. The other was termed the "Mexican" flea market. This had a combination of new and used items for sale. Some sections looked like a giant garage sale with used clothing, tools, electronics and what not. This was where I had my first Churros. Churros, also known as Mexican Crullers or Spanish Fritters are a mixture of flour, oil and water. The dough is extruded through a star shaped tip into hot oil and fried golden brown. It is then rolled in cinnamon & sugar mixture. Each "stick" is about 10 - 12 inches long, it is a wonderful treat. I would have sworn that it was made with cornmeal, but every recipe I found calls for regular white flour or Bisquick.
The one thing that did initially strike us as interesting was the amount of RV equipment and accessories that we saw. Then we realized that this was snowbird heaven and a large number of these snowbirds have an RV.
Exploring the country side was also on the list. Dan and his friend Bill took me to their playroom out in the middle of the desert, about 18 miles east of Yuma. 

Here, they, some friends and the property owner store their desert driving machines. A place that they helped the owner build. It even has restroom facilities and above all a refrigerator stocked with the essentials, beer and water. The owner has put a couple of RV electrical pedestals on the property should one of his friends want to stay there in an RV. From here, looking around you see - desert.

Desert, East of Yuma, around Wellton

I did get a chance to play some golf. Dan and Bill are members of a nice little course not far from their home. This is one of many golf courses in the Yuma area. On a golf course you can usually see any number of birds and wildlife like these long beaked birds.

Dan even told me what they are, but memories can be like golf balls - you might lose a few.
I know it is here somewhere
 But, this was a nice course, though I can't remember the name of the birds I did not lose any golf balls.

I even took a bike ride to one of the many snowbird villages in the Yuma area.
Dan coming back to check on my progress

The setting is very nice. Then there was this one
Park Model Homes in a community in Ligurta
located in Ligurta, about 10 miles east of Yuma. We also got to see a few sunsets like this one.
Sunset from Dan & Cindy's Driveway

After five nights in our friends driveway it was time to leave and head toward home. Until next time -