Wynword Press

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Wynword Press loves deep literature!   We focus on a few, high-quality titles rather than diffusing our efforts across many titles.  Each title is a book we truly believe in...each of our books has something to offer in addition to a good read.  Whether it's from a best-selling author or a relative unknown, you'll find something here to inspire you, grow you and entertain you.

On the Way to Portal

After a few days, we needed to empty and fill ourselves (sewage management is part of RV living) so we drove over to Patagonia Lake State Park. I took no photos there because it was basically wall-to-wall people, but I enjoyed it SO MUCH, and it’s hard to explain why. There was a beach, and a swimming area, and trails, and boat-in campsites, and families everywhere enjoying playing ball and swimming and having campfires and making popcorn and so on. A lot of the people we encounter on the road are blue-heads like ourselves. We don’t see all that many families, and here they were abundant. Next door to us was a family of about 11 people with two enormous tents and all kinds of kids running around having a blast. It made me feel all sentimental. 

Alas, though, it cost actual money to stay there, which we are philosophically opposed to (or else we are just extremely cheap…no comment), so we only stayed two nights and then headed on over to Tombstone (as last year, pretty much a giant yawn) and then to highway 191, and then toward the Chiricahua National Monument. We camped in the national forest between there and Portal. 

This is the place that I wanted to camp, but could not because I would have had to drive through low tree branches in order to get there.

After our horrid experience last year, when I drove too close to the trees and practically took my entire roof off, I have learned some degree of caution about tree branches, so we settled for this campsite instead.

Whilst there, my Associate Navigator tried to interest me in a game of fetch with this petite, delicate stick which I couldn’t even pick up, much less throw.

So he plunged into the wash, which showed signs of recent activity. This might actually be a creek. In Arizona, if there’s even a mud puddle at the bottom, it’s likely to be an active river.

Horrifyingly, we observed Chem Trails here. You would think that the government would have something better to do with its time and money than attempt to obliterate all life forms in southeastern Arizona with deadly, indiscoverable chemicals dropped from the sky. At least they could focus on a more populated area where they could get more bang for their buck. But no. We immediately donned our gas masks and full radiation suits, and in that way survived. IN YOUR FACE, Trilateral Commission.

Parker Canyon/AZ 83

After our fabulous scenic trek down highway 79, we stopped in Tucson to perform dreary tasks such as getting trike repairs and buying groceries. This took up two interminable days and one night in the Walmart parking lot (thank you, Walmart!!), after which we spent the night by the side of the road going to the Tucson Speedway. More Dangerous Encounters of the Cholla variety. We were so hemmed in by them that I feared they would engulf us like the Huorns in Lord of the Rings and leave nothing but a mound of bare stones.

Then we camped on national forest service land south of Sonoita, on the road to Parker Canyon Lake (AZ 83), where we kicked back for a couple of days and tried to recover from Tucson. We parked under a tree, and aside from a few miles of trike riding, did nothing but enjoy the view. 

These clouds just magically appeared one afternoon, and as magically vanished about 20 minutes later. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like them.

While we received no visits during our stay, there were some indications that we had neighbors.

Scenic AZ 79

After leaving the Sonoran Desert National Monument, we took AZ 238 to Casa Grande, then 287 to Florence and headed south on AZ 79. We did this because AZ 79 is labeled a ‘scenic route’ on the map, and I can definitely confirm it is scenic!  First, we encountered Cholla cacti that were far and away the tallest I have ever seen. They towered over my head, in some cases. 

There were several areas where some of the cholla were blooming. Although they looked very similar in form (I, at least, couldn’t tell them apart), they had different colors of flowers ranging from yellow to brown to dark red. 

Whilst taking pictures of the flowers, we got covered in cholla bits, which are called ‘jumping cactus’ for a very good reason. Although you think you are not touching the cactus, you feel pain in your arm, foot, leg, etc., look down and find a cholla bit attached to your flesh. “Hah!” you think. “I’d better get that cholla bit off my arm.” 

Think again. That cholla bit has barbed spines, and wherever you grab it to remove it from your arm/hand/leg/foot/shoe/shirt/dog-body-part, it will instantly stick to your hand and dig additional spines into your fingers. In the end, after much pain and bleeding and wild flailing of hands, you will find yourself picking it out spine by spine with a pair of tweezers while each spine holds on like grim death. Try this on a yelping dog who is attempting to pull away from your tweezers to avoid the pain. Then try it on your yelping self, as you attempt to pull away from the tweezers to avoid the pain, and find the stupid cholla bit detaching itself from one finger only to leap over and embed itself into another.

 

For those whose Spanish is minimal, 'cholla' is pronounced 'choya'

Closeup of red cholla (most of them were red).

Some were darker red than others, though, and this one was actually brown.

And this one (along with several others) was yellow.

I did not take pictures of the cholla bits that actually attacked us because by the time I got rid of them, I was terrified of getting close enough to photograph them. Here is an example of what they look like, though.

Some of the other cacti were also in bloom, and their flowers were dark pink. I’m not sure what kind of cactus this is…it vaguely resembles a barrel cactus, short and dark green with vertical lines of spines, but it is spindly instead of fat and it grows in clumps. Of course, there are a zillion kinds of cactus, and I know the names of maybe four of them, so it could be anything. Perhaps there is such a thing as a Skinny, Congregating Barrel Cactus?

Here is a real barrel cactus for comparison purposes.

The ocotillo were blooming, too (pronounced 'ocotiyo')

And the Palo Verde were blooming as well. I assume these are Palo Verde simply because the wood is green (hence the ‘verde’), and I mean GREEN like a katydid or a preying mantis. But I’ve never looked up Palo Verde, and perhaps these are something else.

Here's what I mean by green wood.

And finally, there were handsome Saguaro, which I only wish had been blooming. I had to put them in, blooming or not, because anyone who does not love a Saguaro is a Philistine.

This photo has it all...saguaro, huge cholla, blooming cholla, and blooming Skinny Congregating Barrel Cactus SCBC).

We also found this roadside shrine along highway 79. One sees these every so often on various roads through the desert.

VT's Rules for Using Your RV as an Off-Road-Vehicle in the Desert

And here, from the Olympian height of bitter experience, are Vagabond Tourist’s Rules for Using Your RV as an Off Road Vehicle in the Desert. Note that this list may not be complete. I shall add to it as time goes on, if applicable. 

You’re welcome, and good luck!

Rule 1: Never, ever, EVER drive through anything that looks like this. Even if you see hundreds of tire tracks from other vehicles who seem to have traversed it successfully, don’t do it. The rusting hulks of their vehicles and the sun-bleached bones of their skeletons are probably hidden behind a bush nearby.  In fact, simply avoid any area that is lower than the surrounding ground, and any area that has a vague appearance of sandiness, and any area that is lined with trees or large bushes. This is a wash. There is no such thing as a shallow wash. Under the surface, there is a bottomless pit of sand that goes all the way down to China. If you get stuck in a wash, you will never dig yourself out…the only way out is with a tow chain and a four-wheel drive truck, or a winch and cable, if you can find anything to hook your cable to.

Rule 2: Avoid any ground that has animal dwellings dug into it (it’s soft). 

Rule 3: Avoid any ground that is lumpy. Avoid any ground that is too close to the bushes. Avoid any ground that looks different from the ground you are on. In fact, maybe you should just avoid the ground altogether and stay on the road. 

Don’t delude yourself that you can tell which ground is safe by walking over it. As you can see from this photo if you look between the tire tracks, the ground you will get stuck in may look exactly the same as the ground you won’t get stuck in, and unless you weigh 15,000 lb. or so, the ground may support you just fine, yet collapse beneath your vehicle.

PS -- the rocks and branch mark the spot I dug myself out of the second time. 

Sonoran Desert National Monument

We went back to Yuma for one last trip to Food City to stuff our refrigerator with 20-cent avocados, 50-cent lettuce, 79-cent broccoli, 68-cent mangos, etc. (oh yeah...I also got my teeth cleaned and checked in Los Algodones, Mexico for $35), and then departed for the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

I don't know if you've figured this out, but some people describe me as being a teeny, weeny bit cheap. I prefer to call myself 'thrifty'.

In the SDNM, I once again got stuck whilst trying to find a camping spot. Here is the camping spot:

Quiet Neighbors

Then we camped here, on the back side of Joshua Tree National Park. The neighbors here were very accommodating. They had no complaints about my crazy, barking dog. Possibly, they didn’t hear him.

Wind Farm

Around the beginning of March, we had to make a hell-bent-for-leather trip to California for some family business. On the way back, I passed this wind farm (a fairly common sight in California). It went on for miles.

LTVA Wildlife

Whilst at Imperial Dam, we camped in two different spots. The first was on the mesa, where the sunrises were great (see prior post), and so was the wind. ‘Great’ meaning there was a lot of it, not that it was enjoyable. So when the wind became too annoying, we sought a place that would be more sheltered, and ended up in a place named ‘Kripple Kreek’. Do not be deceived by this name…there was not a drop of water to be found there.  There was, however, a lot more wildlife, including Mourning Doves, California Quail, and these teeny, fast-moving birds that I concluded might be some kind of sparrow.

PS -- it took me over an hour, plus dozens of wasted shots, to obtain these few photos. This is why I love digital photography. Also, if you look at the original photos you see no birds at all. They disappear into the background and have to be pried out via cropping.

Here is a Mourning Dove looking for food at our campsite. In case you are wondering, yes, the rocks in the background are bright green. Why someone chose to paint rocks in the desert bright green I cannot tell you. 

Here is a quail scratching the ground for seeds (or flecks of green paint?)

This is one of the little birds. Unfortunately, my camera equipment is not good enough to capture him perfectly, and plus, he moves like lightning. As you can see (as opposed to others posted below), he has a black mask and no stripes on his head.

Now this one has only faint stripes. Maybe it is a female?  Like humans, the male bird is generally a lot flashier than the female. Show-offs.

This guy (gal?) is almost completely brown...

While this guy has a black stripey head

And THIS guy has a RED stripey head.

All these different-looking birds hang together in a flock, so if one is around, they all are, and when one flies away, so do the rest.

So are all these birds the same kind of bird?  Inquiring minds want to know...and yet remain ignorant. 

The Superbowel - Go Fishmongers!!

Wow!  What a game!!!  

As we all know, yesterday was Superbowel Sunday. As discussed in a previous post, I couldn't watch the actual game due to not having a TV, but I watched a riveting game of imaginary football wherein the Seattle Fishmongers trounced the Jacksonville Cinderblocks 30-24. 

The truly amazing thing about this game was that every single point scored by both teams was the result of a safety. That’s right…not a single point was scored by either offense. They totally phoned it in. The Cinderblocks, in particular, showed an alarming tendency to sit around on the field like piles of bricks.

I was rooting for the Fishmongers, so I celebrated their victory with this, an ice-cold glass of pasteurized, homogenized Vitamin D milk. There was chocolate cake, too, but it was really all about the milk.

 

LTVA Imperial Dam

After we'd been in Quartzite for a month, we moved to the LTVA near Imperial Dam so that we would be closer to Yuma.  This place is absolutely jam-packed. It's like a city of RV's. There are even concerts on Sundays, not to mention other gatherings, all of which I avoid like the plague. 

The great part about this LTVA is that there are a number of places to ride your bike if you're interested in exploring. The roads are all unpaved, of course, which makes it a little challenging trying to get up the steeper hills, but my Assoc. Navigator and I have triked/run around on miles of roads. Add to the plethora of desert roads the fact that it is pushing 80 degrees here, and you have a pretty darn great place to stay if you can ignore all the crowds. So I pretend that I am in an RV park, because if this were an RV park, the spaces would be huge. 

For those who are tired of sunset pictures, I must point out that the photos  below are not sunset pictures, but sunRISE pictures.

This is part of the (unlabeled) lake behind the dam across Senator Wash. 

This is Squaw lake, below the dam. you can see that in places where there is no water, there is almost nothing but bare rock. It's a lot like riding around on the moon.

LTVA Quartzite

Obviously, we had to move. At this point, we discovered the wonders of the BLM's LTVA's (Long Term Visitor Areas). These are clustered down south in California and Arizona, and they allow snowbirds to stay in LTVA's from 9/15 through 4/15 by paying a modest fee. We moved right in with all the other snowbirds. The place was more crowded than I prefer (since I prefer to see nobody), but it was nice not to have to move every couple of weeks. The fact is, there are not that many places that are suitable for camping in Dec. and Jan. Most of the National Forest is too high in elevation and too cold. So we settled in to wait for good weather in March or April.

The town of Quartzite is the strangest place I've ever seen. It has a population of about 2,000 in the summer, and in the winter, 300,000. Much of the town consists of tent 'shopping malls', even including a discount grocery store. I intended to check out the grocery store, but my Associate Navigator tried to pee on the floor, so I had to leave. 

As for permanent shops, there are very few except for RV dealers. Only one, small grocery store has fresh produce. That's the only option unless you wish to drive to Blythe, CA, 20+ miles away. It does have bunches of places to buy rocks, though. I don't know how many people actually NEED rocks, but if you do want some rocks, I highly recommend checking out Quartzite. 

We weren't really in the market for rocks, so there wasn't much to interest us in Quartzite.

All my life, I've been trying to capture the effect of the sunset on the mountains and failing. This, however, is pretty darn close. The RVs are, of course, my neighbors, who parked right between me and the mountains.

In between neighbors

KOFA National Wildlife Refuge

After hanging out lazily in front of Joshua Tree National Park for a few days, we scampered off to our next camping spot just outside the borders of the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. What a fabulous place to camp! Acres of ‘desert pavement’, mountains, a lush kind of desert landscape, and best of all, Saguaro cacti, my favorite ‘trees’ after Joshua trees. And zero neighbors. 

Of course, the reason for having zero neighbors was that one is not supposed to camp outside the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. Somehow, I drove right past the sign saying ‘NO CAMPING BEYOND THIS POINT’ and completely missed it. So we camped here for a blissful week without knowing we were illegal. Then, unfortunately, I had to go to town for groceries, and on the way back, I saw the sign. <sigh>.

Our closest neighbor...

View from our front yard

Joshua Tree National Park

On Thanksgiving weekend, we drove through Joshua Tree National Park. I had thought we might camp there for a day or two, but not only could we not camp, we had trouble even stopping to take photos. The park was so jammed that I had to stop in the roadway in the middle of a parking lot to take some of these pictures. There was not an inch of ground that wasn’t paved with tourists. We were just one tourist too many. Apparently, Thanksgiving weekend is always like this in Joshua Tree.

Joshua trees are shaped like contortionist Hindu gods and goddesses (many arms). They make the skyline of Joshua Tree National Park utterly unique.

The other thing Joshua Tree National Monument has, besides Joshua trees, is rock. This one looks a little bit like a giant sea cow sleeping on the beach.

I was really annoyed that I couldn’t get a picture of this sphinx rock without these road signs in the way. I figure if I can watch imaginary football, you can pretend the road signs aren't there. If there hadn't been so many (other) tourists there, I could have found a better spot for picture taking, but such was not the case.

Mojave National Preserve

After we tore ourselves away from The Big Dune (which, honestly, was pretty boring...it doesn't look nearly as good in person as it does in my photo), we went to the Mojave National Preserve. That afternoon I got stuck in the sand whilst driving off the road to find a camping space. Not just a little stuck in the sand; stuck up to my rear axle in the sand. The whole back of the RV was sitting on the sand. If it had not been for a dear young man who spent an hour or so trying to pull me out of the sand without a tow strap (meanwhile breaking everything we tried to use instead), then drove 10 miles back to the freeway to see if there was anything we could use at the little store that was there, then rounded up another guy who had some tow chains and accompanied him back to my RV, I might still be in the Mojave National Preserve. 

After that debacle, I was too terrified to drive off the road again even though it looked like a bunch of other people had already driven off the road before me, so we spent the night in Kelso on an abandoned basketball court. Kelso is ugly and depressing, consisting mostly of piles of railroad ties and miscellaneous, rusting junk. 

The next day, though, we found a great camping spot and stayed there for a few days. It’s pretty much the only camping spot in the Mojave National Preserve, or at least the only one I dared to drive to. 

 

Here's what is at the end of the road we are camped beside

The Big Dune

On the other side of the mountains, in a valley kinda sorta similar to the Owens valley (except that it is completely different) we pulled randomly off Highway 95 to camp near The Big Dune. We knew it was The Big Dune because there was a BLM sign that said 'The Big Dune'.  Here is The Big Dune, looking for all the world like a big dune (go figure). 

We got stuck here for a few days because I began shivering and shivered 24 hours per day for four days. I took my temperature, which was normal, so I went around for two days saying “But I’m not sick! Why can’t I stop shivering?”. You can only imagine all the creative scenarios I came up with to explain the shivering -- in fact, you will have to imagine them because I'm not going to tell you any of them. I finally took my temperature again, only to find that it was way above normal. So I stopped stumbling around like a fool and went to bed.

 

Highway 168

After one night in Owens valley, I tried to avoid the predicted windstorm by taking a teeny little highway across the mountains to the east to reach Hwy 95 in Nevada. At the top of the pass, the road was only one lane. I would have loved to take a picture of it because it was quite spectacular, but there was no place to pull over. Even I, who as we know, prioritize road safety below sight-seeing, balked at parking in the middle of a one-lane road full of blind corners to take pictures. Crazily enough, this road was extremely busy with hay trucks, and I didn’t want to get into a showdown with a hay truck. So I took a picture looking back to the west before I reached the top of the pass.

Owens Valley

So at this point we traveled south to the Owens valley, which is beautiful. We only stayed there one night because there was supposedly a horrible windstorm on the way.  Here is the little brook we camped beside, plus some mountain views. My co-pilot was testing the water to make sure there was no dangerous undertow or submerged hazards. To everyone's relief, everything checked out safely.

Another rest stop

On our way toward the Owens valley, traveling down US 395, we found this very nice rest stop on the west fork of the Walker river. They didn't allow overnight camping. We were discussing amongst the three of us (myself, co-pilot and jr. navigator) the likelihood that we would get caught if we broke this rule, but our morals got the better of us and we only stayed long enough to enjoy the view. At least I think it was our morals. Since two thirds of this conversation took place in a language I can't speak, it's hard to say for sure. There was much wagging of tails and smearing of wet noses on knees, and the ultimate decision was left to me.

Summer Lake

Let us travel back in time to the point where we triumphantly discovered the Cascade lakes. After leaving the lake, we then sped down Highway 31, traveling a good 65 or 70 miles, and then became exhausted from our labors and stopped at a rest area near Summer Lake. This rest area was lovely and peaceful, and there were no trucks. All of these things are unusual in a rest area. Summer Lake, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen, although it looks enormous on the map. Apparently, it has shrunk to a tiny puddle somewhere with a vast expanse of marsh grass around it. Here is the view from the back fence of the rest area: