Friday, March 31, 2017

Alamo Lake

Odometer 54830
Trip Meter 147 Miles

Alamo Lake, AZ

In our previous posting we had finally gotten the turn signals to work on our toad. (towed car), and headed west out of Prescott Valley and skirted around the north side of the city of Prescott.

Our destination today is Alamo Lake State Park in the Arizona outback.  147 miles, as the map says, 3 hours by car, and about 4-1/2 hours by RV (including a 1/2 hour for lunch alongside the road somewhere)

We decided to stop and make lunch near the charming little community of Skull Valley.  This community of 525 residents was home to George Phippen a renowned Western Artist who was also a personal friend of Joan's parents.  Joan's dad and George were buddies in the Army.  Incidentally the valley got the name from human skeletons found by early settlers, presumed to be from a battle between Native American tribes.

The map is always deceiving in how easy it would be to get from here to there- just follow the blue line -eh?   A little geography lesson is in order to understand why this route is going to be a little tricky.  The state of Arizona is cut across in the east - west direction at about the upper 1/3 of the state.  This is the edge of the Colorado plateau know in Arizona as the Mogollon Rim (mo-go-yawn)
The Mogollon Rim is an escarpment characterized by high cliffs of limestone and sandstone.

Arizona Highway 89 as it descends 3000 feet to the valley below
Most savvy RVers carry with them the Mountain Directory West which gives you a heads-up on what to expect on the major highways on this side of the Mississippi.  Here's an excerpt from our copy of the Directory on Arizona Highway 89 for this area "Not recommended for trucks pulling trailers over 40' long- 5-1/2 miles of 5-6% grade with many 25 and 30 mph curves"  Yep- that just about nailed it!
We are fortunate to have a very good transmission braking system on this coach.  Flip a switch on the dashboard and when you lift your foot off the throttle, or apply the foot brake, the trans gears down.  The switch is labeled "exhaust brake", and I thought it was, for about the first year I owned the coach.  At Camp Freightliner, Mike Cody set me straight.  Whatever the case, it worked to get us down the mountain with very little use of the brakes.

Wenden, AZ where we leave Route 60 and take Alamo Road

At Wenden, we turned onto 2nd Street, which becomes Alamo Road.  We had been noticing that there was a lot of dust in the air. We have had a headwind for most of the trip so far and the wind is not forecast to abate until late tonight or early tomorrow.   The picture above shows a little of what I'm talking about if you look down the road you should be able to see dust to the horizon.  Alamo, by the way is EspaƱol for Poplar, a tree that is very common to the wetter areas like draws, and arroyos in this area.

Dust fills the skies,  blowing from the tilled agricultural land

Here is another photo showing the blowing dust.  I'm blaming it on the plowed up ground around the agricultural areas here in the Wenden valley.  Hope it doesn't plug up my air filter prematurely.

The roadside looks like a botanical arboretum filled with flowers

Alamo Road is only 34 miles long, from Wenden to the lake.  It is nicely paved and two lanes- but it is very narrow with NO shoulder- I mean, you deviate from your lane and you're in the dirt.  Google Maps show the car travel time as 1 hour and that's close to what it would have taken us if we hadn't stopped to take pictures of the beautiful flowers blooming everywhere!

Beautiful blooms on a Prickly Pear cactus

 No place to pull over, we just stopped in our lane and dashed out to take pictures.  Luckily the traffic was sparse, and we could get away with this bad behavior.

Home for the next two nights at Alamo Lake

We got to the State Park and found our reserved site.  The wind that has been with us all day was still with us, and was strong enough to knock over your lawn chair as soon as you got up.  We retreated into the bus and had our sundowners inside.

This would be a sunset if it the sky wasn't black with blowing dust

Sundown looked like this with all the dust in the air, the sun struggled to get through.
Alamo Dam on the Bill Williams River

The next morning we drove down to the dam that hold back the Bill Williams river and forms Alamo lake.  There is a very nice overlook with a picnic pavilion and restrooms, and a sign erected by the Corps of Engineers.  The water retained here goes eventually down to the Colorado River just below Lake Havasu.

Looking southeast over Alamo Lake

In this overview of the lake, our RV is parked down the right hand side of the lake approximately where the spot of sunshine is.

Tomorrow takes us further west to the town of Quartzite for a few days of dry camping before we head over to the Salton Sea and the hot springs at Niland, CA.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Prescott, AZ

Odometer 54683
Trip meter  78 miles

Prescott Valley, AZ

Joan and I were really feeling at home mooch-docking at our friends house in New River, north of Phoenix, AZ.  Ralph and Ann had really gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.  Regular blog readers will already know that we had been, not only invited on, but invited to drive a Model T on, several local tours including Sunday brunch runs.  They provided us with an RV space that is complete with power, water and a dump station.  We were also regulars on their patio for happy hour, and even some shared meals.
1965 Ford Falcon with a Corvette V-8 engine and trans

 We toured the Cave Creek, Carefree, and Anthem townships in their "new" Ford Falcon Futura convertible.  Generally treated like royalty.
 Ann's sister Darlene and her husband Gary were visiting in their RV also, they come here to escape the Minnesota winter "back home".  We became fast friends and were equally sad to say goodbye to them.  But it was time to start heading on our slow meandering way back to our northern perch in Port Orford, Oregon.

Our first port-of-call on the way home was to be Prescott and the neighboring town of Prescott Valley.  
The route we selected would take us up I-17 as far as Cortes, where we could exit onto Arizona 69 north and west through Dewey-Humboldt and up to the Fairgrounds RV Park in Prescott Valley.

We had not planned on an early start, which is good because I wanted to finish buffing out the brass radiator on the 1910 Ford Model T and to collect my coveralls and tools from the shop and get them back into the basement of the motorhome.

I have had the time of my life, learning how to fix and maintain many of the systems on Model Ts.  I have elected to take the motor out of Ralph's 1919 Model T in Port Orford and fix a problem with the magneto- I'll need all the knowledge and practice I can get.

As we said our good-byes and ran through our final departure checklist, we soon discovered that the turn signals were not operating through the umbilical cord to the motorhome.  The car's own turn signals worked, but the wires/ diodes that should work them from the motorhome electrical system were not working.  I took a tiny spiral brush and some dielectric "grease" and thoroughly cleaned each plug and socket on each end of the power cord from the bus to the car.  It worked!  We were ready to go at 1:30 PM.

A grueling hour and fifteen minutes later we were pulling into our home for the night at Fairgrounds RV Park at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds, just outside of the town of Prescott Valley.  This used to be the RV park for the County Fair, but... several years ago the county sold off he RV facilities and they are now under private ownership.

Prescott's Whiskey Row
Joan at the door to the Palace Saloon

The next morning Joan and I did a walking/ driving tour of the city of Prescott.  They have an awesome old downtown, and the main attraction for us was Whiskey Row.  Joan has sprained her ankle so it was a very short walk- mostly around the plaza and into the Palace across the way.

The Palace is a Saloon that traces it's history back to 1877.  It underwent a full restoration in  1996 and they did a fantastic job of preserving the look and feel of the place.  Now days it's open lunch and dinner.

Whiskey Row was plagued with fires the most devastating for the Palace was in 1900 when it burned to the ground.  Luckily helpful patrons helped carry the Brunswick bar across the street to the plaza and saved it from the fire.

Rebuilt Palace Saloon with its original Brunswick Bar
The metal ceiling is just awesome

The host that greets each new diner and gets them to a table
 is a very authentic looking westerner from the period.
  Complete with gun on the hip and a knife in his boot. 

The rest of the wait staff are also dressed in period garb and
sport the hair styles of the period.                                         

Joan and I marveled at the intricate wood works and the beautiful pressed metal ceiling, the wood plank floors.

Hey!, the food was good too!

The host looks Authentic!
Cavalry rifle, mess kit, canteen, and dress saber

The Palace is also a mini-museum.  We strolled around the interior of the dining room looking at many displays that showed period items, much like you'd expect to see in a classy museum.

Okay, you get the point, we were impressed!

Prescott's court house square, the jewel of downtown
Prescott's Yavapai County Courthouse is hard to photograph for all the greenery.  It has seen many iterations over the years but the current look, a neo-classic revival, dates back to 1916.  It sits on 4.1 acres of grass and is surrounded by more than 170 trees.

The next day, as we prepared to leave for Alamo Lake State Park we traveled separately, Joan in the Honda, me in the bus to the nearest Fry's fuel station in Prescott Valley.  Fry's gives fuel points for our grocery shopping and today we can save 36 cents per gallon on our diesel fill-up by coming here.  The main problem is getting into the smallish fuel islands with the car hooked up, so we drive separately and hook-up after fueling when we can.

Fixing a problem with the lights on our Honda towed car

When we rendezvoused to hook up the car in an empty parking lot, the turn signals on the car were not working- Again!
I tried the socket cleaning that worked last time- to no avail.  I probed the umbilical cord with a test light and the cord and plugs tested OK.
I got ready to take off the turn signal lens on the Honda and check to see if we had a bad diode- and the lights started working.  Grrr..

I checked the lights several times during our trip, and as we arrived at our destination- and they worked just fine.  Huh!

Tucked in for the night at Alamo Lake State Park, AZ
Our destination, Alamo Lake State Park, is a little off the beaten path, and we like that.

We'll tell you more about our trip south in tomorrow's blog.  Suffice to say, we are safely ensconced in out spot for the night and it's time for happy hour!

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jerome and Sedona

Odometer 54605
March 24, 2017

New River, AZ

Today our plan is to take a day trip up to Jerome, and if time allows, Sedona, Arizona.  We set out from our home base at our friends house in New River, north of Phoenix.

We select a route that allows us to zoom up Interstate 17 to Camp Verde, where we'll turn west on 260 to Jerome.
As you can see from the annotations on the map, it's only an hour and a half from our base in New River.  What you can't see from the map is that we will also be climbing from our present 2000 foot elevation to a little over 5000 feet.
Today's pleasant high temps in New River will turn to a sunny but relatively chilly (for us) 65 degrees when we reach Jerome.  We'll each pack a sweatshirt and a light jacket so we can layer as necessary.
Today's journey will also take us from the saguaro and brittle bush up to the Juniper and pines- an exciting change of scenery.

Precious minerals were first found in Jerome in 1876, but the town didn't spring up until much later in 1882 when the United Verde Company bought up and consolidated many of the hundreds of small mining claims in the area.

The town of Jerome, Arizona sits high on Cleopatra Hill
We first arrived at the town of Cottonwood which lies at the foot of Cleopatra Hill.  One can see the small town of Jerome nestled on the steep slopes high above.

The road up from Cottonwood to Jerome is steep and winding

Getting to the town site is a little like driving in the Alps, with tight switchback roads and maximum grades.

A model shows all the mining activity below the town site

A model in the Jerome Historic State Park shows the "hidden Jerome"- the miles and miles of shafts and tunnels in the rock below.  The mines operated from 1876 until 1950 in what is considered one of the richest copper ore deposits anywhere on earth.  It is estimated that 33 millions tons of Copper, Gold, Silver, Lead and Zinc were extracted in 74 years of operation.

Narrow and steep streets in "downtown" Jerome
The streets are narrow and winding, the buildings are stair-stepped down the the hillside,  a surprising few public stairs connect the town's levels.    
House sits precariously on hillside
 As a kid growing up in Juneau, Alaska, I was expecting a lot more opportunities to climb up between the switch backing street levels.  Most of the stairs we saw either served only one residence or were gated with no trespassing signs.  
We were very lucky to have visited early in the season, and we did not have to endure the massive crowds that will soon descend on this poor little town of 500 residents.

This hill was once crowded with homes and businesses

In it's hey day the town had a population of 15,000 and all the open areas you see in the photo above would have been filled with residences and business.  The town suffered 4 devastating fires which razed large portions of the down town in the span of only 5 years (1894-1899).  The town also has a major subsidence problem that has seen more than a few homes slide down the face of Cleopatra Hill.

A little traffic can make for grid lock very quickly

Tourism has been the savings of Jerome.  The town had only 100 full time residents in 1953 after the mines shut down, and was struggling to keep afloat.  Jerome received National Historic Landmark Status in 1967 and rest is history.  Today there are 1500 full time residents, and a vibrant business community, with restaurants, hotels, gift and curio shops, wineries and bars.

We had lunch in Jerome and walked the streets, taking pictures,  checking out the shops and local history.   Around 2 PM we  had walked most of the town and decided to drive on up 89A to Sedona.

Sedona is currently home to about 10,000 people and the town is famous for it's beauty and the stunning rock cliff that is it's backdrop.

According to archeologists the first humans lived and hunted here sometime between 11,500 and 9,000 years BC.  In 1995 a clovis projectile point was found here that dates back to that time.

The iconic red cliffs above Sedona, AZ

It is only about 17 miles from Jerome to Sedona, and we could tell that we were getting close when we started to see the beautiful, and iconic, red sandstone cliffs that are the backdrop for the city.

Main road through downtown Sedona, AZ

All the luck we had in Jerome did not hold out for us here in Sedona.  The town was overrun with vacationers, and the string of traffic you see in the left lane was one solid unbroken string of cars extending two miles out of town to the north.

Tourists flock to Sedona's downtown core for music, food, and shopping

We admired the Architecture and the layout of the town.

Beautiful sculptures are everywhere

There were awesome displays of art everywhere you looked.

Cottonwood Canyon
In the end, we made one trip through town to get our bearings and just looking at the 2 mile string of cars pouring in decided to keep on going north up Cottonwood Canyon on the scenic highway towards Flagstaff.  We intersected Interstate 17 just south of Flagstaff and turned back towards Phoenix on the Interstate.  We arrived back at our base camp in New River at 6 PM.

We'll see more of Sedona on another day.

1910 Model T radiator

The next day back in New River, our hosts had another project for for me to do.  The 1910 Model T which had just returned from a two day run with the Horseless Carriage Club in the Superstition Mountains, had lost it's radiator filler neck.
The solder joint had weakened and Ralph had to resort to Gorilla tape to finish out the run.

Wanting a more permanent solution, we decided to have a go at soldering it back on.

Finished soldering of water neck

We had to go to a hardware store and pick up some supplies and do some research on the Internet, before we were feeling like we had  a chance of doing this well.

We cleaned up the old solder with a torch and air jet, cleaned with muriatic acid, heated, fluxed, and tinned both surfaces, before we stuck the neck in place and soldered it on.

Only time will tell if we got it right, but it sure looks good to me.

Tomorrow we are leaving in the motor home for the Prescott area, on our slow meandering way north to Oregon.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New River & Cave Creek Arizona

Odometer 54605
New River, AZ

Off on a new adventure!  We have been in Ajo for four months, and we have enjoyed every day we have spent here this winter.  That said, we are looking forward to new adventures, starting with a trip up to the Cave Creek area of Arizona.  Joan and I have good friends that have invited us up to stay at an RV dock next to their home

Our friends Ralph and Anne have several Model T  Fords and are keen on teaching me (Jeff) how drive, service,and maintain them.  Saturday we went on a tour of the local area in Ralph and Ann's Model T touring car, top down, and wind in the face.  The weather for it was just perfect- 70's to 80's, not a cloud in the sky!

Members of a local Model T club gather for a Sunday morning run
As you might imagine the Phoenix area is large enough to ensure that there are many willing and eager Model T owners that would be ready to rally on a sunny and warm weekend afternoon.

Joan and I get a practice ride in one of Ralph and Ann's classic touring cars
Unbelievably, we were allowed to take out this precious 1915 Touring car to practice on the roads and highways around New River, and Anthem.  The T has a set of 3 floor pedals and the throttle is a small lever on the steering column.  The left pedal of the 3 is the combination clutch and gear shifter.  Press the left pedal to the floor and the car is in first gear, in the middle range the car is in neutral, and let the pedal all the way up for second gear.  The middle pedal is only used for reverse gear, and the right hand pedal is the brake.

A rest stop at our turn-around point 
The next day we drove the 1910 "mother-in-law" Model T shown on the right in the photo above.  The car got it's name from the solo seat set to the rear of the car outside the protection of the folding roof!  Chloe the 10 year old that rode with us this time was lucky enough to enjoy warm weather and blue skies.  Our average speed today was about 35-40 mph, but the T's are capable of more speed.  What they aren't capable of, is stopping quickly.  The T's brake bands act on the transmission (like a drive shaft brake) and only stop the rear wheels.  Staying under 40 makes the stopping a lot less dramatic, and reduces the need for panic stops.
We stop to admire "Elvis" the famous local dromedary
 Our route was calculated to take us by a local mammalian star attraction, specifically Elvis the local dromedary.  The Conrads who bought Elvis in Yuma, said they have always liked the idea of owning a camel.   When Elvis' mother became ill and could not nurse him, his owner was looking for someone to care for him and be willing to bottle feed him.  Elvis is very friendly and loves getting treats of hay, carrots, or wheat bread.  Today though, he was most interested in his salt block

Wrenching on a 1915 Touring car

I get to help with the maintenance as well as the glamour job of driving.  Ralph has a well equipped shop which includes a car hoist which makes the small chores easier and a lot more fun.

Here we are replacing a pair of springs on the Rocky Mountain brakes that have been added to this 1915 T.  The Rocky Mountain brake is an additional brake that allows the foot brake to use the outside of the parking brake drums on the rear wheels.  A constricting set of brake bands close around the parking brake drums which house the normal internally expanding brake shoes operated by the hand brake for parking.

Author is installing new radiator hose on '38 Ford pickup

Ralph and I decided to replace the belts and hoses on his favorite shop truck, a 1938 Ford that has been hopped up with a Corvette engine.
A rod like this one is a composite of many different car families; Chevy engine, Pontiac rear end and suspension, and of course a Ford chassis and bodywork.  This makes it challenging when ordering replacement parts.  We also replaced the pinion seal and fashioned a new retainer for the brake reservoir.

My favorite project though is rebuilding a replacement carburetor for the 1919 pickup that is stored in Port Orford.  More on that in my next post.

Joan and I are excited about shopping at places like Costco and Fry's again.  We took a run over to Costco and stocked up on some essentials (like artichoke hearts, olives, vegetable ravioli, dry cell batteries, etc) and I got to shop at the local Harbor Freight store.

We also are enjoying the warmth of the hospitality extended to us by our hosts and their friends.  We have afternoon cocktails on the shady porch each afternoon, and quite often throw in together for a group meal as we watch the sun set in the western sky.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Getting Washed

Odometer 54446
Ajo, AZ

Joan and I have always been fascinated by the power and the majesty of the deeper washes in the local desert.   We have never seen them running full of water, but one can imagine the force of nature that it would take to sculpt a canyon this deep, cutting through loose rock, clay, gravel and sand.

Joan and I took an afternoon walk along the bottom of this deep and beautiful wash.  We were awed at the sculptures of rock walls, falls, ledges and the waters sinewy path.

An as if that was not enough, nature added some beautiful flowering plants to complete the look of an expensive and expansive rock garden.

We saw Palo Verde and Ironwood Trees casting welcome shade into the wash, and in one sunny corner we found a fairy duster struggling valiantly to grow from the rocky soil.  Resplendant in its beautiful blooms.

In this channel we found a rock and mortar wall built above a rock chute.  We assume that it was for a holding pond.  If so, the "pond" is silted in, so what did the rock wall accomplish?

Another example of a mortared rock wall shown in the photo to the right.  The purpose is a mystery, but the beauty is undeniable.  Maybe it is to keep domestic stock from wandering off the land by following the dry wash.  Anybody know?

In the 'good 'ol days' washes were also convenient dumping places.  Here lies the back half of a 1947 Studebaker Champion.  Probably has some value to a restorer?

One more spectacular arroyo "rock garden" shot to leave you with.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan