Saturday, April 12, 2014

Quiet Quartzsite

Before we left Tucson, Rob and I took a day trip to Tombstone and Bisbee. Where Tombstone is a tourist destination to see old, western buildings, museums, shops with real Native American jewelry and art, and shoot-out shows with actors always in character as people like Doc Holliday, Bisbee is the non-tourist, living, breathing, real-deal, old, western town, although retrofitted for the modern age. Tombstone was fun to see with its wooden sidewalks, and, before you hit pavement, dirt edges to the street, which gave the dusty feel of how it must've looked and felt way back when; hitching posts, and a stagecoach, in which you could pay to ride, helped finish the effect. But we spent way too much of our day walking around there. By the time we got to Bisbee, we were a bit worn out, especially Rob. I was disappointed that we didn't start the day in Bisbee because I would love to have found the cemetery to search out my great great aunt Daisy's grave. My mother's story about her great aunt is the reason I went to Bisbee. This is what my mom wrote to me in an email:

"Hi, again. You are going to be passing fairly close to another place where ancestors settled - Bisbee, Arizona - southeast of Tucson close to the Mexican border. Hettie Kuykendall Ligon's sister Daisy moved to Bisbee after either a failed marriage or being widowed, I don't know which, and remarried after several years in Bisbee. She came to visit Hettie before WW2 and Hettie was dismayed to find "her sister" smoked cigarettes, dyed her hair and wore lipstick! Shirley (my mother's cousin) and I loved her and she must have liked us because on her next trip west (still before WW2) she brought me my first doll with "real" hair - I still have that doll. I will never forget her bright red hair and lipstick. I don't remember what she brought Shirley."

I wondered, as I looked around at the hills and at all the houses as we drove through the town, just where aunt Daisy had lived.

Founded as a copper, gold and silver mining town in 1880, there didn't seem much to Bisbee other than it being a picturesque place with authentic, old western buildings and homes that are still occupied today. The Copper Queen Hotel continues to be in business and has been since 1902. Apparently, it is known for paranormal activity and was featured in both TV shows Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Now wouldn't that be an interesting place to spend the night? Bisbee is also the county seat and the courthouse is built incongruously with its surroundings in the Art Deco style. Not only is it's architecture quite splendid, it was fitted with absolutely, gorgeous entry doors, for which I just had to run up the steps to photograph.

Bisbee is a hilly town full of charm. Most of the homes we saw are small—like quaint, little matchboxes—but painted in bold, cheery colors. A good number were nestled in the crevices of the rocky hills. Many of the homes were built in the Mule Mountains and, to this day, are unreachable by vehicle—hence the name 'Mule.' I don't know for sure, but I guess by mule might still be the way to transport loads of goods to one's property—either that or ATV. It is also the home of the 1000 Step Climb, a 5 kilometer run that goes through the streets and up and down over 1000 steps. My buns and thighs burn just thinking about it.

I do wish we could have stayed longer. Another time.

We reached Quartzsite at the end of the high season. Most of the wintertime businesses have shuttered or pulled up stakes to move on to their summertime locales. When we arrived, there were several RV parks with many lingerers but, since then, even those have thinned. In the desert, on BLM land, dry-camping RVers, many sporting solar panels, lined up one after the other just a couple of weeks ago and, now, only a few dot the landscape here and there. At the Holiday Palms, we seem to be the only transient RVers left. We have a rig or two come in for a night, maybe two but, otherwise, they've all left before it gets too hot. A couple of days the temperature climbed to over 100°F, but its coming back down—for now.

I imagined there'd be plenty of downtime for me here in Quartzsite. I'd planned to spend all my time learning Photoshop and to do that sort of thing I need an atmosphere of non-distraction, but we'd made several friends the last time we were here and some haven't left to head back home. So, unexpected but welcome, socializing became part of my agenda. I can learn Photoshop in bits and pieces but, I know me, I have to keep at it and focus or I'll forget everything I learned in between my lessons.

The first folks we stopped in to visit were Phil and Linda, who live in Oregon during the summer months. Its been a pleasure to get reacquainted with them. Phil took both Rob and me out into the desert in his ATV. Rob one day, which was hot and windy, and me the next day which was hot and not so windy. Phil took me to several vistas, which I photographed, and stopped when I asked so I could take more photographs. Phil drove me out to see Native American pictographs and bowls worn into stone where they once ground corn and other grains. We drove by a little community called Rainbow Acres where the original intention was to build homes. I could see that a couple lots had homes constructed in the adobe style, but otherwise it was all land with a low wall around the whole place. Well, we all know what happened with the economy, so the landowners rent their lands to snowbirds during the winter instead. It is a ways from Quartzsite, but not too far, so you can simply drag your chairs out into the desert and watch the sunset (or sunrise), and stare at the stars at night to your heart's content with nary a city light to pollute the sky.

That evening, I took the card out of my camera to download all the photographs onto my hard drive. My computer said it couldn't read the card. What?! I fiddled around and tested my card reader, which appeared to be operating correctly. I know I saw my photos on my camera! There couldn't be anything wrong with my card! I popped it back into the camera and what did I see? A message—something to the effect that the card wasn't formatted. I always reformat my cards! All my photos from the day are lost. Rob said it was 'just a glitch. It happens' (as though that was supposed to make me feel better?). Sigh. The first photo of the day had been a bunch of beautiful cactus flowers that would be spent by the time the sun got too high and hot. Phil said it was called an Argentine. Gorgeous! They looked like someone had plopped a bouquet into a cactus vase. Lost those, too. But, the good news is Phil emailed some of his photos to me—a few from the day and a few to show some of the things he's seen while out in the desert with other ATVers; and, Linda emailed me her shots of the flowers. This means you get to see them, too.

I remember thinking, as we drove west through Arizona toward Quartzsite, that I just don't like the desert. Although I admired the Saguaro and Occotillo cacti as we sped past the gray-brown, dusty terrain, I felt as though it was too desolate and I couldn't remember what I saw in it after having been through the green of the east. But I remember now. I've been reminded of it's unique appeal, a beauty teeming with life. Where else can mountains and buttes reflect the brilliant colors of a sunset like they do here, or find rocks beige on one side and burnt black from the sun on the other? If there is anyplace, I haven't been there, yet.

The second folks we stopped to see were Jeff and Nonda, who also spend summers in Oregon. They have an RV windshield business and last year we facilitated an introduction between them and our friends who we met in the Imperial Sand Dunes, Mark and Jeannine, from Lake Havasu City, who have an RV window repair business. They now work cooperatively by referring business back and forth according to the customer's needs. By all accounts, they had a fantastic season this year. We couldn't be happier for them. When we leave Quartzsite, we'll be in Lake Havasu City and will be getting together with Mark and Jeannine. I sure hope they can fit us into their work schedule. We have a couple of windows that need attention.

The night the sky was on fire with that vibrant sunset that I saw so many photos of on Facebook, we joined Phil and Linda, Nonda and a few more couples around a campfire. We all sat about 6 to 8 feet back from the flames because we certainly didn't need it for heat, just atmosphere. The evening marked the last jam session of the season in the clubhouse as well, so we enjoyed live music while we ate/drank jello shooters, provided by a fun-loving gal by the name of Charlotte. Thank you, Charlotte. Those shooters were yummy!

We found out from our friends, Mike and Deb, that a couple of friends from our motorcycle riding days spend their winters in Yuma, so we invited John and Charlene up for the day. We talked and talked and found we had more in common than we'd ever known before. We barbecued steaks, and had baked potatoes and salad for dinner. We had a wonderful time catching up and will be driving down to see their place in Yuma on Monday or Tuesday.

I don't know what I was thinking when I thought we'd be having a 'quiet' time in Quartzsite. It hasn't turned out that way at all. Thank goodness!

I love this life.

Here are Phil and Linda's photos:

The road to nowhere—or so it seems.

Phil and Linda's Tarantula encounter.

So much to see in the desert.

Linda's photo of the beautiful, blooming Argentine cactus.

ATVers gathering for a ride.

Nice shot, Phil!

That's me taking one of the lost photos.

The pictographs.

How awesome is this scene!

And this one!


And there's me, again, getting ready to photograph this old, stone house.

And, now, my photos:

The stagecoach in Tombstone. The horses were getting cooled down with a spray of water.

Rob with his new friend.

Cool doors.

More cool doors.

The actors waiting around for the next show.

I loved this mule bench.

Even Tombstone has hit hard times.

One of the prettier buildings.

The Art Deco Courthouse. Front, right, is a statue of a copper miner.

Part of the 1000 steps.

Cool looking manhole cover.

Offices and a restaurant next to the 1000 steps.

Stunning Art Deco Courthouse.

And, it's doors.

Old downtown Bisbee. Charming.

The haunted Copper Queen Hotel.

Heading back to Tucson.

The clouds were amazing that day.

At the Holiday Palms in Quartzsite.

I love the saguaros.

Another lovely cactus in bloom.

Sunset reflected.

The night the sky was on fire.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

From Tyler to Tucson

It seems pretty unbelievable to me that I last posted a blog just 12 days ago. It feels more like a month. We spent three nights in Tyler, Texas, three in Georgetown, two in Fredericksburg, two at Balmorhea (pronounced Bal-Mo-Ray) State Park, Texas, two in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and we just spent our second night in Tucson, Arizona. We'll be here another four nights.

When we left Florida, we had no clue exactly what route we would take heading west, except for Hot Springs. We decided we'd like to head down into Texas to see some nice folks. Our first stop was Tyler, Texas, to visit with our friend, Don Chandler, and his fiancee Magali, who is from Peru.

Rob contacted a friend he'd worked with at Intertek (his last and final career), who he thought moved to Tyler, in hopes of getting together with Russell and his new wife. Russell responded that, no, he and his wife live in Dallas and so sorry he wouldn't be able to see us. Then shortly after, he responded again. He and Leslie would be in Tyler for a family birthday on the day of our arrival and would come see us after, which they did. It was the first time I'd met Russell, even though Rob had told each of us much about the other. Russell is also a photographer and, in my opinion, much better than I. If you're interested, you can see a sampling of his work at We had a wonderful visit and enjoyed meeting Russell's wife, Leslie, for whom he moved to and began a new life in Texas. We wish them much joy and prosperity for their future together.

Don and Magali got back from a week long vacation in Destin, Florida, the day after our arrival. They came out to The Beast to see where we now live and then we went out to Chuy's for a Tex-Mex dinner. I had stuffed avocado with an amazing sauce. Oh, yum! Kudos to the chef who came up with that one! What's interesting, though, is I just checked their menu online and it's not there. I can't remember if it was offered as a special.

We enjoyed getting to know Magali, too. She is a sweetheart and Don is quite smitten. We also wish much joy and prosperity for their future as well.

The following day, we took Don out to lunch and he took us on a drive around Tyler. Although raised in Dallas, his parents bought a ranch out in Tyler and Don spent many weekends and summers of his youth there hefting hay onto trucks, riding horses and rounding up cattle. He showed us the property, pointing out the house his father had built, the house where his grandparents had lived for a time and what had once been their property lines, which bordered land his uncle had owned and worked.

There were cows grazing on part of the property and I asked Don to stop the car so I could get out and photograph them. As I'd move closer to these beautiful cows and heifers, they'd shy away causing me to beg them not to go too far. I tried to avoid too much eye contact and gave them a little more space which, to my delight, served to stimulate their natural curiosity. They lined up to see what I was up to and treated me to a square-on view of their sweet faces. I've learned since then that this particular breed is called Blonde d'Aquitaine.

We finished up the afternoon with a tour of a big cat sanctuary called Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. They take good care of the animals there, but it makes me sad that these majestic creatures aren't free to roam where they belong—in the wild.  

It was fascinating to learn about Don's background, of which we'd had no clue, given our relationship's dubious beginnings. Both Rob and Don are ex-husbands of the same woman. And given Don's influence on our daughters' lives since childhood, and that he is father to their half-brother, we are pleased we've developed a caring relationship and are proud to call him our friend.

After Tyler, we traveled down to the Austin area to visit with our daughters' great aunt Jean. We enjoyed hours of conversation with a very kind, thoughtful and charming lady. We had the pleasure of meeting her partner/boyfriend/fiance, Bob. They once worked together for IBM and socialized together with their spouses. They each were transferred here and there by the company over the years and I suppose you could say the relationship ebbed and flowed according their locales. Bob lost his wife and Jean her husband some years back. They made contact about two years ago and, as they say, the rest is history. Bob is a great guy with a great sense of humor. We also wish them joy, along with peace and good health for the rest of their days.

I drove cross country with our friend, Judy, when she relocated to Florida a couple of years ago. We drove through Fredericksburg, Texas, and since then I've wanted to return just to wander in and out of the shops along the old Main Street. Given that we needed a couple of stops somewhere between Georgetown and Las Cruces, I decided we'd break it up with Fredericksburg (even though its just a couple hours from Georgetown), and Balmorhea State Park after.

Rob and I considered taking a tour of the National Museum of the Pacific War, which my dad would have loved, but it promised hours and hours to see the whole of it and we only had one day in Fredericksburg. So on to the shops that were mostly colorful, many unique, and a few touristy. We stopped in a candle shop and watched Sheila Suggs first dip her soon-to-be creation into several vats of colored and melted wax, building upon a basic shape, then sculpt a decorative candle right in front of us. If you need a gift for a person who already has it all, you can find them at If you follow the directions, these candles can be enjoyed for years.   

I can't remember how I found Balmorhea, but I'm glad I did. It is home to the largest spring fed pool in the world, they say, and if we'd stayed a few more days, we would've taken a dip in that pool. I think we'll try to come back sometime later in the springtime when the weather is warmer and enjoy it—and the little fishies nibbling on our toes! Yes, really. And we met a great couple, Dean and Diane, who are also full-time RVers. They have a Winnebago Suncruiser a year younger than our Horizon. They have the same countertops as us, the same wood cabinetry, but a different layout. Theirs is also gas where ours is diesel. For a gas model, it has a fantastic layout and I envy their kitchen. So much more counter space than ours. But, still, ours suits our needs better than any rigs we've ever seen. We hope to see Dean and Diane again.

On to Las Cruces. We spent an afternoon wandering the old town of Mesilla just down the street from the RV park. They have lots of touristy shops with southwestern goods, clothes and jewelry; and a beautiful, old, catholic church called 'Basilica of San Albino.' Rob and I decided to check out the church so I stopped at the car and brought in my tripod. It looked just like a catholic church to me, but what was most outstanding were the stained glass windows. Stunning—richly colorful and unfaded.

Now we are in Tucson. We planned to stay only two nights, but we've extended it to a total of six. Not only did it make sense financially, but my mom told me about a town a couple hours away where a beloved great aunt of hers, Daisy, had lived and died. The town of Bisbee has quite a history as a copper mining town and still looks like an old western town. We'll be visiting there tomorrow, March 31st. We were going to go today, but we had to have our satellite dish checked out and repaired. It has worked out well as today is overcast and tomorrow will be bright and sunny. We'll stop in Tombstone and watch a shoot-out at the OK Corral before heading down to Bisbee. Should be fun. You'll see the pictures in the next blog. Until then…

Leslie and Russell Perkins

Don and Magali

Curious ladies.

I love the one in the back (ear tag #70) trying to see over the others.

There's #70 again.

Snoozing in the warm sun.

What a beauty. This fellow had just had his ears scratched by a caretaker.

This Tiger is currently kept in the older, smaller spaces. They are working on the new, larger  ones.

Aunt Jean and Rob.

Rob with Admiral Nimitz, who hailed from Fredericksburg.

Dipping in the wax.

Starting to sculpt.

Almost done.

The final product.

A display of brightly colored candles.

How about sunflowers.

A little Texas whimsy.

A canal directing spring water at Balmorhea State Park.

Just a few fish to swim with.

From the deep end.

Scuba divers come here. The near area is 25 feet deep.

Fish swimming around the steps in the shallow end.

The history of Balmorhea State Park. Double click for a larger view.

Our camp at Balmorhea.

Loved this door in Mesilla, New Mexico.

Love the southwestern colors.

The alter at Basilica of San Albino, Mesilla, New Mexico.

The stained glass windows of Basilica of San Albino.

"The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin"

"Saint Joseph"

"Saint Anne"

"Saint Isidore the Farmer"

"Saint Raphael the Archangel"

Love the woodwork.

The current structure of the Basilica was finished in 1908.