Sunday, September 28, 2008

In to New Mexico - and it's COOL

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Benson, AZ to Deming, NM

176.9 miles

No sign this a.m. of all the rain last night! For which Misha was especially grateful. Silly girl doesn’t like to get her feet wet! How come none of my doggies ever wanted to get their feet wet?

Lovely day for a drive. And it’s a good thing that early in the day I got to drive thru the Dragoon Mountains.
It took my mind off the awful road conditions!

I love the Dragoons. This incredible mass of huge boulders tumbling and stacked all over each other.

You round a bend and there they are, and a short distance later, poof, they’re all gone. I would sometimes drive out of my way just to enjoy this freak of geology!

To liven up the desert, in this next stretch of nothingness, we get to see miles of billboards advertising “The Thing”!

One estimate is 247 signs stretching from Tucson to El Paso. A must stop for all visitors to the Southwest. Not.
This is THE typical tourist trap, but it does have a gimmick. And it’s a nice break for someone who’s been on the road for ever.

I didn’t stop there. I was enjoying my drive! 

Lots and lots of black-eyed susans lining the highway – bright yellow flowers waving at the passer-bys! Blue sky, white puff clouds! 
It’s great to be on the road again!!! And I think Misha is going to like being a roadie too!

There is something to be said for staying put for a while though – gas bills were a pittance. First time I’ve filled my 75 gallon tank in a long time. Whew!

We started a gentle climb, passed the turnoff to the Cochise Stronghold.

It’s worth a visit. The Cochise Stronghold is located in a beautiful woodland protected by a rampart of granite domes and sheer cliffs. This rugged natural fortress at the edge of the Dragoon Mountains was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers.

The recreation area is safe from Indian attacks now and offers camping, hiking, birding, horseback riding and rock climbing.

A little further on is the turnoff to the Chiricahua National Monument. This is another little side trip that is absolutely worth the time for a visit! 

Twenty-seven million years ago, a volcanic eruption of immense proportions shook the land around what is now Southeastern Arizona. The Turkey Creek Caldera eruption laid down two thousand feet of highly silicious ash and pumice that fused into rock and then eventually eroded into the spectacular pinnacles, columns, spires and balanced rock formations you’ll find today in the Chiricahua National Monument.

The beautiful Chiricahua Mountains stand in the far southeastern corner of Arizona, one of the several “Sky Islands” (mentioned in a post the other day, about Mt Lemmon) surrounded by expansive grasslands, about twenty miles wide and forty miles long. It rises up dramatically from the valley floor to over nine thousand feet, and at the northern end of the range is the extraordinary area of truly awe-inspiring geological features and enormous biodiversity. The Apaches called this place “The Land of Standing-Up Rocks.”

The monument is a mecca for hikers and birders, and the road over the high pass east to west is one of the prettiest single drives I’ve ever taken!

We passed by Willcox, famous as the home of Rex Allen, a real life cowboy legend and movie star. I’ve visited the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. A fun place to visit, where you can see a lot of old memorabilia, including a full sized replica of Rex’s horse, KoKo. Koko is buried at the foot of the bronze statue of Rex in town. Next weekend is the 57th Annual Rex Allen Days Celebration – a fun filled weekend of rodeo events, cowboy poetry and western music, parades, carnivals and a full calendar of festivities.

Lots of walnut and pecan orchards (?) fill the grasslands. And some new vineyards and little wineries. Again, everything is greener than usual for this time of year. Another lovely day for a drive!

Crossed the Continental Divide on a high plateau, at 4,585 feet. Saw billboards advertising Las Cruces, where you can “walk where Billy The Kid rode” – is that their only claim to fame??

Another billboard suggested I “follow the zipper to yardstick 120”. Huh? Don’t recall what it was advertising, but I’m guessing the ‘zipper’ is the highway?? And ‘yardstick’ 120 might be mile marker 120? Weird!

Arrived safe and sound in Deming – and it’s way cooler here than in Tucson. Weatherman says 53 degrees tomorrow morning!

Dream Catcher RV Park
4400 East Pine St
I-10, Exit 85
Deming, NM 88030

Out of town!!

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Tucson to Benson, AZ

31.2 miles (WOW!)
Sunny and Windy!

Finally, I’m “on the road again”!!!

Had a lazy start this morning. Packing up after being planted for 7 months makes for a lot of things to put away! That, plus I wanted to make a short trip to get back in the rhythm of driving a big box, and to break Misha in gently!

I was reminded, sadly, of how bloody awful a road I-10 is. A major interstate and it’s bumpy and pot-holed and just plain worn out! Arizona should be ashamed!

Beyond that, I was pleasantly surprised at how green the countryside is. I knew I’d seen a lot of rain, but obviously this was a terrific monsoon season! The grass is deep and green – well, green by Arizona desert standards!

Stopped at a place I’ve read about recently – Butterfield RV Resort. Didn’t think much of the place – a big paved parking lot. Not much personality. Clean and tidy, blacktop. Oh well – they can’t all be special. 

Hooked up and hunkered down and held on – a wild windy thunderstorm dumped buckets of rain shortly after we arrived. And when I had checked the weather in the morning, there wasn’t a hint of rain for at least 10 days out. As usual, the weatherman knows not of what he speaks!

Butterfield RV Resort
251 S Ocotillo Avenue
Benson, AZ 85602

Mt Lemmon

Several days ago, while the coach was in the shop for a few minor repairs, Misha and I climbed in the car and took a really neat drive.

It’s been several years since I’ve driven up to Mt. Lemmon, when several friends were in town visiting. This is a special drive to share with visitors.
I'd forgotten how nice it is for the locals too!
It’s only about 30 miles from downtown Tucson, but it’s a completely different geology and climate!
You travel up a scenic winding road from the valley floor up into a saguaro cactus forest in the foothills, past hoodoos, up into big boulder strewn mountains, and into the pine, fir and spruce trees of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

This is one of the Arizona “sky islands” in the Coronado National Forest.

If it was winter, the road might be impassable, open only to residents with chains on their vehicles! Snow, real snow, every winter! Enough to ski on!
In the summer, it’s about 30 degrees cooler than in Tucson – a great escape from the heat!!

Since it was a week day, traffic was really light – the drive up was wonderful. Magnificent views around each bend.
I was delighted to see that the damage from the horribly devastating fire of 2003 is recovering beautifully, as is Nature’s way.

Much was lost in that awful fire, historic homes and shops, old growth timber. And even though there are areas still showing signs of the fire, everything is greening up, with new homes and business popping up everywhere.

It was a refreshing, cooling drive! We even rain, and some hail! And it was 100+ downtown!
The only traffic jam I ran into was when a big flock of wild turkeys decided to cross the road!

We had some extra time before we had to be back, so next we drove to the Saguaro National Park.

The Park consist of two districts, West and East with Tucson right in the middle, preserving more than ninety-one thousand acres of the life and landscape of the Sonoran Desert.
We visited the larger of the two – Saguaro East, the Rincon Mountain District. There was a $10 fee to enter the park, but it was such a lovely day, we decided to spring for it.
There are lots of hiking trails, 128 miles of them, but the drive itself is only 8 miles, through the heart of an extensive saquaro forest.
It’s a one way road, and although I wasn’t very impressed when I started out, the park just kept blossoming before me.

It is truly beautiful – clean – many different forms of cactus, many in bloom from the monsoon rains. Birds flitting from flower to flower. Butterflies.
Saw a pink racer (that’s a snake, a pink snake, that comes by its name because it slithers so damned fast!).

I drove the Cactus Forest Drive twice through this sample of our Sonoran Desert because it was just so pretty and restful and peaceful and full of life.

The delightful day was made even better when I found that all the problems with my coach were little ones, easily fixed, and it didn’t cost me a fortune!

The Animal Rescue Site
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