Monday, March 16, 2015

Casa Grande

Odometer  44623
Trip Meter 132

Friday March 13, 2015

The day had finally arrived for us to say good bye to all of our winter friends here in Ajo, AZ, and head back out on the open road.  Joan and I set to the task of getting the bus ready to roll again.

privacy screens, window sun screens,

Joan finished the laundry and stowed all the small appliances, put away the books and magazines, returned every item to its rightful place, while I took down the sunscreens, stowed the tire covers, stowed the jacks, and jack pads, checked the tire pressures... it's a long list.  
By 10:15 we had the car hitched up and were ready to roll.  We said our last good-byes and dozens of handshakes and hugs later we were slowly moving out of the park and onto Arizona 85 north and east to Casa Grande.

Entrance Sign to Casa Grande Ruin
The trip to Casa Grande is only 132 miles and would be the perfect way to start our transition from sedintary to mobile again.  We found a Passport America affilliate park in Coolidge, AZ the town that is actually near the famous ruins.  There is a Casa Grande, AZ.  However that town is almost 30 miles to the southwest.  Passport America is a membership program that saves you 1/2 the cost of an overnight stay at participating RV parks.  We pulled into the Indian Skies RV Park in downtown Coolidge  at about 2PM, and paid for two nights.  The temperature was nearly 88 degrees and the RV spaces available have no shade.  We did a hasty set-up on the RV, turned on the A/C, locked the door and got back in the car.

Casa Grande Ruin, The "Big House", Roof over Casa Grande site

We had gotten a screw in our car tire on our last outing in the desert and it was time to get that tire fixed and back on the car.  Our spare is at least 10 years old, and looks good but it's the original tire from when we purchased the car and as such, is not to be trusted for anything but emergencies.  We dropped the flat tire off at the Tire Factory for repair and headed over to the Casa Grande National Monument.  The ruins are an ancient building that were built by Native Americans in the year 1350.  Spanish missionaries were the first European Americans to see the structure and write about it in 1694.

Guide speaks to audience at Casa Grande Ruin

We flashed Jeff's Senior Pass and got in for free- Yea! We caught up to an earlier group that was being given the history of the place by a docent and quietly slipped into the back row to listen.
What is so incredible is the size of this structure, and the engineering and resourcefulness it took to get it built out in the middle of the desert 600+ years ago.

Adobe walls, Caliche building blocks, Casa Grande walls

The building is 4 stories tall and 60 feet square.  The walls are made of sand and clay blocks made from the caliche clay and sandy soils that are abundant in this area.  It is estimated that the building blocks weigh, in total, over 300 tons.  All this was augmented with between 650 to 800 juniper and pine poles to support floors and ceilings.  The incredible part of this is that the wood had to be sourced from forests that were over 60 miles away.  This was at a time in American history that pre-dates the horse and the oxen by nearly 400 years.

I should mention that there are many more foundations in the area that suggest that many smaller homes were built around the Great House.

Luckily the significance of the ruins was recognized by early scientists and visitors who urged then President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 to help protect the area from destruction with a designation as a "Cultural Reserve".  In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson changed the designation to a National Monument.  A roof structure has proteced the ruins since 1924.  The most recent steel and concrete structure was built in 1932, replacing the earlier wooden roof.

We just had time to pickup our patched car tire at the Tire Factory and head back to our home on wheels.  Joan made mini pizzas with loads of veggies, almond cheese and vegetable sausage, while I installed the newly patched tire on the Honda and relegated the spare to its rightful place on the exterior mount on the back door.  The pizzas were delightful and we watched a little TV before turning in for the night.

Saturday March 14th

We contacted our good friends Ralph and Ann, who we met in Port Orford last summer, and who vacation down here near Phoenix during the winter.  They invited us up to their winter place near New River, AZ, about a two hour drive north from Coolidge.  Joan and I drove the car up to meet them for lunch.  Somehow all the pictures I thought I had taken are non-existent- so I've got nothing to share with you.   Ralph and Ann have a very nice stucco home on acreage, complete with a very large shop housing among other things a 1911-1/2 Model T, a 1932 convertible Cadillac V-12, and a Ford pickup from somewhere in the late 40s or 50s (I don't remember).  We had a very pleasant lunch on their back patio and talked and remininced until 4 about four o'clock in the afternoon.  Realizing that we had a two hour drive back, we said our good-byes and pointed the car back south to Coolidge.
We arrived back at the bus at 6 PM tired from the drive and hungry.  We had stopped at Safeway and picked up some fresh veggies and some Thai peanut sauce, and Joan proceeded to make a most excellent curried rice with steamed broccoli, and sugar peas.  Yum!  That and a Manhattan on the rocks and I was back in good spirits.  We are looking forward to seeing Ralph and Ann again soon, back in Port Orford this summer.

RV fueling, Pilot truck stop, RV fuel island, Tucson, AZ truck stop

Sunday March 15th
Time to lay some more tracks towards Dallas and Joan's brother Jim, Wife Sally, and Daughter Savannah Austin in Royce City, Texas.  We got our usual "early" start at 9:30 this morning, and headed south on highway 87 through the San Tan Valley towards Tucson.  We stopped briefly in Tucson to top up on diesel at $2.72 a gallon.  Fuel taxes in New Mexico are lower, but for some reason the prices are higher- around $2.85/ gal- go figure.  Having a 100 gallon fuel tank gives us the advantage of a range of 800 miles between fill-ups which means that we can plan our fuel stops for easy access and low cost.  The Pilot- Flying J pictured above has opened up a fuel island that is just for RVs and offers discounts on fuel with your Good Sam member card.  In the picture above, Joan takes advantage of a long handled squeegee for windshield cleaning- a real treat because we don't have to dig ours out of the basement.

Interstate 10 near Arizona- New Mexico border

While cruising on I-10 east near the Continental Divide we passed from flat desert (we're now out of the Sonoran desert into the Chihuahuan desert) into an interesting area of large boulders.

Boulders, Interstate 10 near Lordsberg NM

I mean seriously large boulders, and very close to the freeway.  Then, just as quickly, we resumed the flat desert look again.  Curiously cool.  

I have mentioned this before, but it's worth saying again, each desert has it's own look and feel.  To us the Sonoran desert is very lush and green.  In the Chihuahuan desert here the trees are not yet leafed out.  We see Yucca plants and prickly pear cactus, but the Saguaros, the Ocotillo, and Cholla cacti are missing.  

Dust storms in New Mexico, Zero Visibility sign on Interstate 10

The winds are quite strong today.  We started out with a gusty east wind from our left as we motored south down the San Tan Valley, and that changed to a head-wind as I-10 swung eastward toward New Mexico.  I am amazed at how well this coach and its Freightliner XC chassis handle in just about all conditions.  This is our third motorhome and is the first one that I would say is a joy to drive all day.  I am watching the tachometer and we are turning an extra several hundred rpm to maintain our normal cruising speed of 65 mph.  There goes our fuel mileage for this leg of the journey.  I don't dare go any more slowly; I am already doing 10 mph under the posted speed of 75 and don't want to become a speed bump for someone traveling at 80 mph.  
Lucky for us, the dust storms never materialized, the skies remained blue and inviting.

Little Vinyard RV Park- Deming NM, Motorhome, motorhome towing, RV park

We arrived in Demming, New Mexico at around 4 PM, with around 281 miles behind us today.  Almost all these miles were freeway miles, not my personal favorite, however there are few other reasonable alternatives between Benson, AZ  and Las Cruces, NM.  Route 9, thirty miles south of here would leave us in El Paso- quite a way out of our chosen path through Alamogordo.
Our only close-call today was having to chose between running over a child seat or a metal bar stool as we were coming down the on-ramp after stopping and making lunch near Benson.  I chose the car seat and it pained me to hear it clunk and crack on the undercarriage.  We pulled over as soon as we could and a quick survey showed no obvious damage, and no leaking tires.  Once back on the road, we saw the AZ Patrol had stopped the miscreant hauling household goods un-secured in the back of a pickup. GRRR!

Filtered drinking water, Reverse osmosis water filter, drinking water vending machine

Before we could settle in for the night, we had to run into town and fill up our 5 one-gallon jugs of water at the nearest water kiosk.  The water run through reverse-osmosis filters makes for good drinking and coffee brewing, so we go through this ritual about twice a month and it typically costs $1 for 5 gallons.

Tonight we're going to have a repeat of the Thai curry rice and vegetables- it was that good!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

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