Sunday, March 30, 2014

Los Algodones Mexico

Odometer 38285
Trip Meter (car) 12 miles 

Saturday March 29, 2014
Yuma, AZ

From our present location in Sans End RV Resort, in Winterhaven, California, just across the Colorado River from Yuma, Arizona, we are 7.1 miles form the border crossing into Mexico at Los Algodones.

This map shows our proximity to Mexico.  The green marker labeled "A" is our RV park and the green marker labeled "B" is the border crossing.  The map also shows the relative size of Yuma on the lower right side and Los Algodones which is nearly dwarfed by the green marker labeled B.  Our friend and guide for the day, Mark, says to think of Los Algodones as a huge storefront.  LA as I'll abbreviate it, exists to serve the aging and transient populace of 'winter arizonians" arriving in November and departing in March.  The stock in trade is pharmaceuticals, and health care, with a bit of jewelry, and soft goods to boot.

We were glad to have Mark along for this first trip across the border here.  Mark explained that the Quechan Native Americans (I hate saying Indians- they are certainly NOT from India) own the property on the US side of the border and have for our convenience today, built a very large paved parking lot in  which we may park and leave our car, for the sum of $6 US.

Mark showed us the sometimes circuitous route by which a pedestrian may enter Mexico.  The turnstile in the far distance in the above photo is the border crossing- no armed guards, no drama, just push through and enter Mexico.
Once you are on the Mexican side of the border it's like coming out of a rabbit hole onto a busy city street.  Everything is laid out for your shopping convenience, doctors, dentists, opticians, pharmacies, drugstores, liquor, and jewelry stores.  A shopping Mecca.

Mark and Joan pause on their way through a "tunnel" of soft goods as we make our way down the main thoroughfare.

The vendors are a tiny bit aggressive, but very friendly and retreat quickly if you tell them you are not interested.  The locals love it when If you smile and laugh, most speak english very well.  Vendors deal with you in US dollars- so leave your phrasebook and calculators at home, but be ready to haggle over the price.
We saw just a few Federales, just enough to make you feel secure, never anything threatening.  All-in-all it was a very pleasant experience, one we will be likely to repeat.  Joan and I bought some street jewelry, a hand painted serving plate, and some scotch before heading back to the car.  We did some searching on-line last night and checked what we were paying for our meds, to see if we could get a good deal on prescription drugs here in Mexico.  We both felt that Costco's prices were nearly as good, and sometimes a bit better.  The big thing here, however is you do not need a prescription to buy- so if you wanted to stockpile ahead- you could do that.

The State Department warns on it's website that it is strictly illegal to bring pharmaceuticals purchased in other countries into the US, while admitting that it is often overlooked by Customs officials if you have only enough for personal consumption and no narcotics.

One highly interesting thing that we noticed this year, that is different from our visits in the past, is that there is water in the Colorado river- lots of it!

One of the Border patrol agents we talked to told us this is the most water he has seen in the river in all the years he has lived here.  

In 2012 the US and Mexico signed an addendum to the river agreement that has existed between our two nations that would allow for a "pulse flow" of 130 million cubic meters of water to flow down the Colorado starting on the 23rd of March 2014.  This pulse of water would be less than 1% of the pre-dam flows, but would be enough to ensure that for the first time in decades, water would actually reach the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.   At present, It dries up in the river bed before reaching the Sea.
The reason for the pulse is to allow a binational ecological study of the river.  Whatever the reason- it is exciting to witness the mighty river flowing again!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On to Yuma

Odometer 38285
Trip meter (bus)  308 Mi.

Thursday March 27, 2014

Moving Day!  
I know I'm weird, but I always look forward to moving day- getting ready for that next big adventure.  We have been here in the Quail Ridge RV Park for a month now- arriving on the 27th of February from Ajo, AZ.  Our goal was to see a lot of what this area (SE Arizona) has to offer- and there is a lot to see.
We have managed to see at least some of:
Fort Huachuca
Sierra Vista
San Pedro Riparian Area
 Tumacacori Mission
Amerind Museum
Pima Air & Space Museum
Chiracaua Nat. Monument
Ramsey Canyon
Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate
And lots more...

So overall it is a very successful and busy month (did I mention fun?)

This morning we leave Quail Ridge for Yuma and our long trek north, to our winter home in Oregon.  Our route will take us up Arizona 90 to Interstate 10 north and west before jumping off on to Interstate 8 west, for the rest of the way.  The route we are taking will take us north through Tucson- then further north to Casa Grande, before we get to the turn off for Interstate 8.   After 4 hours of Interstate we will arrive in Yuma.  ( I started to say 4 grueling hours - but you all know by now- nothing is grueling about chewing up miles in a cushy motorhome like this one)

By 4:45 we were tucked into our space here at Sans End RV Resort, enjoying a cool libation on the patio with our friend Mark Lankford.
Rough day.

Tomorrow we will do some exploring around  Yuma.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Long, Long, Trailer

Odometer 37595
Trip Meter 0

Sunday March 23, 2014

Today when we woke up, we couldn't help but notice that a behemoth had parked just outside the gates of our RV park last night.

I can't begin to describe how huge this tuck and trailer combination is.  The rig consists of a semi-tractor hooked to a 32 wheel dollie- bridged to another 32 wheel dollie, both dollies supporting one end of a gigantic truss.

The truss beams support the, presumably very heavy load suspended in between.  At the other end of the truss is a similar combination of dollies.

If that weren't enough there are tow/ pusher bars connecting two more semi- tractors in the rear.  If I've done my math correctly, there are 128 tires supporting the load and another 30 tires on the associated pushing/ pulling/ braking tractors.

Pretty cool rigging.  We were watching TV on Monday night and at 10:20 PM we heard them start to move out- down AZ highway 82 heading east.  We bailed out of the motorhome and watched in fascination as the whole rig slowly moved into the roadway.

Sorry, my night vision camera is on the fritz- this is all I can show you of the procession.  The police escort closed the highway for the transit.

Monday 3/24/2014

We took a drive down to Naco, Arizona with good friend Barb Cowger to retreive a chain-link dog run that she has stored at an RV park.  The trip down Hwy 90 was uneventful and we got the dog run dissassembled and packed into the Honda CRV in no time at all.  On the way back, Barb took us on a tour of the small border town of Naco.

Once a prominent frontier border town, Naco, AZ lies just north of Naco, Mexico.  This (picture above) was once the main portal from country to country- right on Main Street.  Now it lies quiet and unused as the border crossing has moved east and to the outskirts of town where it could be more heavily fortified, as well as not back up lines of traffic into down town.

As we were leaving Naco on the west edge of town we came to historic Camp Naco, originally built here on the border in 1919 by the US War Department for border defense.  It is the only surviving fort of the 12 border forts built in the early 1900s that extended from Brownsville, TX to San Diego, CA.

After being decommissioned, this camp was also used as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and later a base for Arizona National Guard, before being abondoned entirely, and left to fall into disrepair.

As you can see here, restoration has begun on some of the adobe walled structures, and locally there is an active movement to retore the buildings and the grounds to it's former glory.  Someday soon you may be able to tour this historic site- for now we must be satisfied to view it through the chain link fence surrounding it.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate

Odometer 37959
Trip meter 24 miles

Thursday March 20, 2014-  First Day of Spring!

Whenever we get a touch of cabin fever, there is always a hike to take, someone to visit in the park, a museum to see, or shopping to do.  
Joan and I became acquainted with Bob and Beverly Burns our next door neighbors in the Quail Ridge RV park here.  We knew we'd have a lot in common as we were both traveling in Itasca Horizon motorhomes.  Bob and Bev's Horizon is 4 years newer than ours but they still share the genetic look of the Horizon series.
We had great fun sharing stories of our various road trips and adventures we'd had on the way.  Bob confessed that he had never gotten into using the satellite navigation system that is built into his coach, and I am a techno junkie- so the two of us sat down and with a little help from the Internet figured out it's intricacies.  By now we had become fast friends, and Joan and I  both loved playing with their poodle named Charlie.  Joan and I were bowled over when Beverly sent over a portion of their pork roast and potatoes for our dinner.  She had cooked up a huge dinner in her crock pot and was kind enough to share with us!  It was delicious.
Several friends, Bob and Beverly included, have urged us to take the hike out to the site of an early Spanish Presidio in the desert near here- so today we are going. 
In the mid 1700s the Spanish established a string of forts, or presidios through the southwest from Louisiana to California.  These were symbols of Spanish occupation and a way of laying claim to the territory.  According to royal regulations, presidios were to be established every 40 leagues ( 2.6 miles) and linked by regular patrols.

In 1776 an Irish mercenary Hugh O'Connor was sent by King Carlos of Spain to establish this particular presidio.  Two Captains and 80 men perished under withering attacks by the native Apaches.  The Presidio was never finished, as the mule trains sent to re-supply the fort rarely made the transit in tact.  The Apaches stole many horses and thwarted all efforts at growing crops.  By 1780 the fort was abandoned. 

It is a short 12 mile drive down AZ hwy 82 to the turn off at In Balance Ranch Road.  A three mile drive down a washboard road that tested every nut and bolt in the Honda led to this nice graveled parking area at the trail head.

The "you are here" on the map above, is the start of the the trail we took to the presidio.  Our GPS indicated that we had walked 2 miles by the time we arrived at the fort from the parking area.

This is what the trail looks like in mid March.  Not much greenery as none of the trees had any leaves.  The hiking was not strenuous as there is a slight down-hill to the river (the fort is at the river).  After a mile or so, the trail starts to follow an old railroad grade for another 1/4 mile to the site.  Of course, the RR came in over a century later, and nearly ran through the early fort!

Signs tell us that this is one of the best preserved presidios- in the string of presidios from Los Adaes, Louisiana to Alta California, and there is not much here- but what could one expect from an adobe structure that has sat in the desert for 238 years with no maintenance?  I'm very impressed that Any sign of it still exists, and the excitement is making me go wild with my camera, taking pictures of everything.  I'm convinced that something has been done to protect these remaining walls, but I am unable to find any information on how.

The presidio sits on a high bluff above the San Pedro river, an important source of water for drinking, animals, and crops.

The walls were constructed out of adobe clay, mixed liberally with stones and vegetative matter.  The forts were all to be built around a standard plan and include area for housing,  and of course a chapel.  It was the custom of the times to enslave the local native population and use them as forced labor.

There are very nice interpretive signs, giving us a glimpse of what each particular area of the fort may have looked like, based on what can still be found of the foundations and walls.  Regulations dictate that the fort should be 121 varas, by 103 varas, or 328 feet by 280 feet.

Of course, now days that takes a lot of  imagination to see how it once looked...

It is incredible to think that this stone foundation was being laid at almost the exact same time as George Washington was taking command of the Continental Army.

Once the clay mortar has been leached out of the stone walls by rain fall, all that is left is a pile of rocks.
Twice this area has been studied by archaeologists.  Of great interest is the fact that the fort was located on the same site as an earlier, long abandoned, native village.

The picture above was taken from a position within the fort.  The bright green trees show the river bed.  Why build here?  The availability of water, and the need for protection along the northern frontier of  New Spain.

Bisbee Redux

Our good friend Barb Cowger, who we first met in Ajo, has moved to the Sierra Vista area now, and we got together on Sunday the 16th to go down to Bisbee again for some sight seeing and lunch.

I have already published a whole lot of Bisbee pictures, as it remains one of my favorite small towns, so I'll try to restrain myself from getting carried away here.  I liked the walled court yard above- we saw this in Brewery Gulch.
Check out the iron doors with pick-axe door handles.

We really like the Savory Spot and have eaten here before with it's quiet courtyard ambiance in the upper canyon.  We got here close to 1 PM but it was still quite busy.  Jeff kept looking at the crumbly stone and dirt cut-bank just above our table- there's a house foundation just above there.  Hmmm... well it's been there for over 100 years now, guess it will last til after lunch.

Last time Joan and I visited we missed this fabulous motel in Warren, a small town that is now contiguous with Bisbee on it's southeast.  The owners use vintage RVs for the motel rooms!

The setting is just awesome.  Vintage travel trailers, set up in a turn of the century RV park setting.

Above is an Airfloat Flagship travel trailer that is kept in excellent condition.  This model was built from 1952-5 and used corrugated and anodized aluminum siding.  The porthole windows were a trademark of this line.

A beautiful 1947 Flexible Clipper bus conversion, complete with wood deck and tiki bar- FUN!

A ChrisCraft sits at "dry dock" waiting for the crew to serve dinner on the after deck.

Okay- just one more- can you say tiny travel trailers.  Maybe this one rents for half price?

Home again just in time for another pretty sunset over the Whetstone Mountains west of us.

We leave the Sierra Vista area next Wednesday and start our leisurely trip north- back to our summer home in Port Orford.  Some destinations we are considering are Sedona,, AZ,  also Niland, CA (on the Salton Sea) and visiting relatives in Cathedral City, CA- then who knows...

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pima Air and Space Museum

Odometer 37959
Trip 235 mi. (Car)

Friday March 14, 2014

Today was our much anticipated trip to Tucson to see the Pima Air and Space Museum.  We planned to get a, ahem, early 9:30 AM start.  As we have reported in earlier blogs, the trip from Huachuca City to Tucson is about 60 miles- a one hour trip.  We dressed for the cooler weather we have been seeing in our area which is abouve 4,000 ft, and it looked like it could get very warm in Tucson at 2,600 feet, with bright sunshine.

There are 60 acres of territory to explore and 99% of it is open to the public.  The planes are not roped off and you can do anything but climb on, or deface them.

    Above is the B-17G Flying Fortress

There are five large indoor display buildings on the 60 acres- and in all- over 300 different aircraft to see.

We were going to have to pace ourselves.
    B-29 bomber 

The big bombers are always a big draw, and this one was elevated so you could look up into the open bomb bays and see quite a bit of the interior.

    F-104G fighter 1958- 1980

Jeff went on a B-line towards the F104G shown here as he wanted to measure the aleiron and wing flap.  

Jeff and good friend Mark Lankford visited the crash site of an F-104 in the desert near Ajo this winter. 

                                                    Airfoil found near Ajo, AZ

Quite a few miles away they found an airfoil that looked as if it may belong to the 104- so measurements  may confirm this.

Jeff was also keen on studying an AT-6C Texan, as he and Mark spent many hours in the desert looking for one of these (or parts of one) at two different crash sites.
The Texan as it was known was a very popular trainer for WWII pilots, and the Ajo Gunnery Base near the town of Ajo had many of these during that time.  Mark is able to get the old (now declassified) documents that detail the Incident Investigation done by the Army Air Corps.  Unfortunately all that is spelled out is an azimuth from the Gunnery Base and a distance.  GPS helps us get to that spot and the search radiates out from there.  We believe that the Army was fairly casual about the accuracy of those two numbers, as pre-GPS they were not all that easy to confirm. The more I know about what they look like- the more likely I'll recognize a part of it if I find one.

    Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-049 Constellation - in use from 1946- 1970

Joan's Uncle Craig flew for TWA around this time and this brought back some bittersweet memories of when he was still alive.  Craig Bidgood began his career flying helicopters for the military in the Korean War, and transitioned into flying passenger airlines after the war.  Craig died in a crash in his personal craft, a V-tail Beech Bonanza in 1978.  He has two sons that followed in his footsteps with aviation careers.

    Beechcraft Starship 2000A manufactured from 1988-2003 by Burt Routan's company Scaled      Composites

The Starship shown in the photo above was designed to be the successor to the Beech King Air.  The design called for a totally different manufacturing system than had ever been used commercially.  It was built using composite materials- carbon fiber composite for it's structure, used two pusher propellers, and a forward small wing called a canard, and the vertical stabilizers were on the end of the wings!  It was the first use of the all "glass cockpit" - no mechanical gauges - just digital readouts on a glass screen.  At this time no civilian aircraft of this type, and construction, had ever been certified by the FAA.

The use of carbon fiber and composites made the plane more expensive than aluminum construction,  however the plane handled superbly, and with the canard was very hard to stall.  The pusher arrangement made the cabin quieter, and the planes were very luxiourious inside.   Beech only sold 11 planes is 3 years, however production continued until 1995 when Beech decided that it was too small a fleet to economically continue supporting. (53 total were built)  Beech began destroying the Starships in it's inventory, and buying back planes it had sold.  Today there are 9 survivors in private hands and at least 5 in museums.  Although it did not work out for Beech, it was not the fault of the design- because as we all now know this is the construction that made possible the Spaceship One, and the winning of the X-Prize

Speaking of research in aircraft technology the Budd Company developed this transport for the Navy during WWII.  It was feared that there could be an aluminum shortage and the government was pushing for the use of non-strategic materials.  Budd, a manufacturer of railroad passenger cars, contracted with the Navy to build the RB-1 Conestoga using stainless steel instead of aluminum.  The Navy initially ordered 600 and the Army an additional 200
The Budd company used an innovative method of spot welding the seam making for a very smooth rivetless installation.  In the end, the aluminum shortage was never realized and fewer than 17 of these stainless steel cargo planes were built and those went directly to storage, never seeing use in WWII.  They did fly briefly for the Flying Tiger freight airline after the war.

Lucky for Joan and me, PASM also operates a powered tram and guided tour, because by 2 PM we were getting sore from walking.  We gladly hitched a ride for the next hour.

    The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy built circa 1965  only one ever built.  -4 sister ships very similar.

The Super Guppy shown here is one of a kind- it's 4 siblings had more powerful motors and were called Super Guppy Turbine.  Only 5 ever built, they used the fuselage of the military varient of a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and were heavily modified as you can see to give a cargo area of 94 feet by 25 feet.  They have been used extensively by NASA and also by Airbus to fly large sub-assemblies from a remote manufacturing place to the assembly plant.  It's ability to hinge the cockpit off to the side allows it to swallow some very large cargos.  NASA's is the only one still in operation, the other four are right here at PASM.

    Sikorsky S-64 Sky Crane (now the type certificate is owned by Erickson) manufactured 1962- to  present day

The Sky Crane is well known to us-  Joan and I lived in Medford, OR where Erickson has purchased and refurbished these for many years.  The original designer and manufacturer, Sikorsky, started manufacturing the S-64 in 1962 and over the years110 Sky Cranes were built.  Early on, the military saw the potential here and made an initial purchased of 6 of them.  (presumably more over the years) Erickson Air Crane, an Oregon company, bought the type certificate and manufacturing rights to the S-64 in 1992.  Sky cranes have been very active in fire fighting all over the globe- they are the go-to heavy-lift helio for construction companies world-wide as they can lift 20,000 lbs.  One of our good friends in Medford, Curt Charley, works for Erickson.

Towards 3 PM the skys got very dark and the clouds threatened rain.  We felt some rain drops, and the wind started to pick up dust and grit- we decided we'd seen enough.  We looked through the gift store and then headed for the car.  One thing that tickled Jeff was a pile of broken aircraft parts that you can sort through and each is priced if you want to buy one.  An empty 20mm canon shell and a practice "bullet" that fits the shell, can be purchased for $18.95,  a piece of titanium turbine blade will set you back $150!  Nope- don't need either.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan