For the last few days, we've been hanging out in Phoenix enjoying some spectacular weather. We stayed at a place called Towerpoint, which is best described as summer camp for seniors--on steroids (the camp, not the seniors). There are activities from dawn til a little after dusk that include sports, crafts, live music, and outings of all kinds. There is also an endless variety of social events which require armies of volunteers, and from my limited exposure, flying flags, decorating bikes and golf carts, music, dancing, food, drink, and even an occasional parade. While we spent some time lolling around the pool taking in all this activity, we also took advantage of being in the RV capital of the US. As a result, we wrapped up our stay by trading in Winnie for a still compact, but roomier-on-the-inside home on the road. So the answer is yes, we love traveling this way and plan to do a lot more of it. Yesterday was moving day. Say hello to 'Sunny'.
Gardens and museums
In the last few days we spent some time at both the Desert Botanical Garden and the Heard Museum. The Heard Museum is dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art and artists. It houses an extensive collection of pottery, baskets, Hopi Katsina figures, jewelry, clothing, art, and sculpture as well as exhibits on Indian culture. I enjoyed an exhibit of Awa Tsireh's painting and metalwork. He was born in 1898 at San Ildefonso Pueblo and began painting in 1917. His work was exhibited nationally by the early 1920s. Here are pictures of a few of his paintings and a couple of pieces from the sculpture garden.
And some photos from the Desert Botanical Garden that include clay sculptures by American artist Jun Kaneko. Can you spot the Chihuly? And the highly prized Mickey Mouse cactus? I'm sure those are the correct botanical names.
Holbrook and beyond
After visiting the national park, we spent the night in nearby Holbrook, which is actually the only town nearby! After breakfast at Joe and Aggies, I met a local in the parking lot who suggested I get a picture of the mural on a nearby building, because it illustrates Holbrook's history. So here you go . . . along with some Holbrook public art.
Less than a mile down the road, we were delighted to happen upon a bit of Route 66 nostalgia.
Not only can you sleep in a wigwam, but the parking lot is filled with vintage cars and trucks. We even thought about trading in Winnie for an older model. And notice the bushes are shaped a little like wigwams.
And then just a few more miles down the road in Winslow, standin' on a corner, such a fine site to see!!!
After all, we may never be here again.
Petrified Forest National Park
For the last few days, we've been hanging out in Phoenix, AZ. Quite a change from the more out-of-the-way places like Borrego Springs and Parkfield. Today we went about 200 miles north to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. The park is the site of fossils formed from plants and animals that lived 225 million years ago, including large deposits of petrified logs formed from coniferous trees of the period. It also borders on what is known as the Painted Desert which extends from the park to the Four Corners area at the east end of the Grand Canyon.
It snowed north of here last night, and the park is at an elevation of around 5,400 feet, so as we proceeded into the mountains we came across some remnants of the storm.
Along the Puerco River that flows through the park, there are remains of a pueblo dating back to about 1300 BC. At its peak, the pueblo had over 100 rooms and may have housed as many as 200 people. The inhabitants would have grown corn, beans, and squash in the river's floodplain. Puerco Pueblo was not isolated. The river provided a travel corridor across the grasslands of the Colorado Plateau. Large and small communities existed up and down the Puerco and Little Colorado Rivers. This pueblo would have been visited by travelers and traders from far outside the area as evidenced by the artifacts and rock art found in or near the village.
Hopefully these photos will give you a little taste of the beauty of the Painted Desert. There are a couple of close ups of the petrified wood, but in several other photos you can see it as it occurs naturally in the landscape.
Borrego Springs is one of only a dozen or so dark sky communities in the US. These are communities dedicated to implementing and enforcing lighting ordinances, dark sky education, and citizen support that limits light pollution of the sky at night. All of this makes for excellent stargazing. So we spent part of our last evening in Borrego Springs outside, on our backs, taking in the amazing display of the night sky.
Today, we leave for Arizona, where I am happy to share that there are four dark sky communities, and a couple more in Texas, so our stargazing opportunities continue. For my Midwestern friends, Beverly Shores, IN also carries the designation.
On the way out of the desert, we passed a variety of desert landscapes, ranging from sandy to rocky, vegetation to barren. We again passed the sad Salton Sea, and drove through part of the Imperial Valley, where irrigation allows for production of carrots, salad greens, alfalfa, dates, beets, and citrus fruits. It also contains the largest catfish farm west of the Mississippi (yuck!).
Anza-Borrego State Park
We are staying at the Palm Canyon Resort and RV Park, which we are finding to be one of our favorites so far. It's clean, not crowded, and has all the amenities we usually look for plus a cafe, bar, and morning coffee bar. A sweet surprise in an out-of-the-way place. It's also only a mile from the state park entrance. We took a walk up there to check out the scenery and found exhibits, brief films, and helpful rangers. The park is vast, the largest in California.
The visitor center building is interesting--built into the side of a hill to take advantage of the cooling effects of being partially underground.
A few sights of spring coming to the desert.
Borrego Springs is known for the giant outdoor metal sculptures you will find in the desert around town. Dennis Avery, (heir to the Avery Dennison label fortune, lawyer, and philanthropist) lived here with his family. He bought up land in the area and commissioned metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda to create works to be placed on the land he named Galleta Meadows Estate. The sculptures illustrate animals and people that represent the area's history. Traveling around the desert you may see herds of metal horses, a prehistoric dinosaur or mammoth, a native American, a migrant worker resting against a cactus, or a stagecoach and driver. Avery died in 2012, but Breceda, who lives in Aguanga, CA and his team continue to create metal artworks.
This morning we heading south from Parkfield to Borrego Springs. It is southwest of Palm Springs and west of the Salton Sea. We passed a lot of date palm nurseries in the area. It was a gusty day and the desert sand was blowing across the road like snow. Here are a couple of pictures taken on the road into Borrego. Beautiful!
We spent a long weekend in Parkfield, where Dave and Geoff live. They are fabulous hosts, and it's always fun and relaxing to spend time at the 'Parkfield Hilton'.
Parkfield is the other town in California with a population of 18, and it's a long way to the nearest market in San Miguel, so a little advance planning before heading out there is a good idea.
For such a small place, there's a lot going on. It's home to the V6 Ranch, owned by the Varian family, which has played a significant role in California's history. In addition to the ranch, they run a cafe and lodge. They host special events year-round including a rodeo and a bluegrass festival, each drawing thousands of visitors.
Coming into Parkfield, you cross a short bridge over the San Andreas fault that takes you from the Pacific Plate to the North American plate, in at present, just a few yards.
Not surprisingly, the first buildings past the bridge house a US Geological Survey office and a UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. And next door is a Cal Fire Station with Smokey the Bear tracking the fire hazard level.
Across the street is the Parkfield School which serves about a dozen elementary students.
The building next to the school used to house the school's teacher, but is now being converted to a public library branch. Having designed a number of libraries in his former life, my brother is helping with this transformation.
And, there is a community building where town meetings and other official business takes place (like the annual Halloween party).
"But what about the ranch?" you ask. It covers about 20,000 acres of diverse terrain; abundant wildlife; and is home to horses, cattle, and recently a pistachio orchard.
Back to the Ranch
This morning we packed up to head back to Parkfield.
But before leaving Cayucos, we had to take a couple of photos. The first confirms that Doug and I are as old as America's crumbling infrastructure as evidenced by the age of this bridge. (Darla never misses a photo op.)
And these are bookend photos. The one on the left is my brother Dave (age 4) and me (also topless and age 2), overlooking the Atlantic ocean from our grandfather's house in Cocoa Beach, FL. And the one on the right we took this morning. It's a thing with me. I have similar pics of Andy and Katie when they were young. It remains to be seen if they will carry on the tradition!
Ann, Doug, Moose, Darla, Sunny, and with gratitude, Winnie and Chinny.