Friday, March 31, 2017


Hi Everyone,

We're in the Sonoran Desert, home to the famous Saguaro National Park.  We'll write a post about that soon.  Yesterday, driving across the desert the wind picked up....and up and up.  It was a cross wind and buffeted the rig quite severely from side to side across the road.  To me, this was far and away the worst driving that we've had.

I had driven through the tight cactus filled roads of the Saguaro National Park all morning, and I didn't last too long driving in the wind on I-10 before we stopped for Karin to take over.  She drove about 55mph the whole way, following a semi-truck that was also going slow (the speed limit was 75 mph, so you can imagine the conditions that would encourage a semi to drive slow).  Tumbleweeds were blowing across the interstate along with trash and dust, but Karin did an awesome job piloting the rig.  We stopped for the night at the Gila Bend Koa, where the wind was THRASHING and the temperature 93 degrees.

At our campsite, our camper was buffeted from side to side so violently, that I finally screwed down the four corner feet to stabilize it.  The wind was too strong to open the front window, roof vents, or the windows on the windward side, so we had only the door open and the windows to the leeward size.  It was blowing so hard that Karin's hair was standing straight out - in the camper!

The weather reported that we were having sustained wind of 25-45 mph, with gusts to 50.

Late in the night, the wind died down, and now in the early morning we have just a gentle breeze with the sun rising through the desert dust.  It's about 55 degrees.  Heading west today, still going to see that elephant.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Hike on Kartchner Foothills Trail Loop, Benson, Arizona

After arriving at our campsite at Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona, we set up camp, and took off for a hike on the Foothills Trail Loop.  Here's the trail head.

This is an picture of a Javelina (member of the Peccary family), which looks a lot like a wild pig.  Good luck finding him in this picture...I think he's right there...see...right there.  Dr. McDonald said they are good eating.

A dry wash (creek).

Nothing says "I love you" like a romantic heart-shaped prickly pear cactus.  Actually, it says "I love you, but if you get too close I'm going to mess you up something fierce."  Now on sale at Hallmark :-)

Prickly pear cactus with Sophie for scale.  It was hard to keep her from getting too close.

A sign said this called a pestal rock used by native Americans to grind grain and other foods.  They wore fairly deep holes in the rock.  The one to the right is about eight inches deep and eight inches in diameter.

Everything was prickery.

I mean REAL prickery

One viewer commented that they wanted to see a group photo of the team.  Here we are :-)


Stickery, prickery, sharp, needley.

Karin and Sophie coming up the trail.

Pointy, jaggedy

This is a view from the ridge of one of the dry washes.  I wish I could see one with water in it.  In any event, you can see that there is more and greener vegetation there.

Even the rocks were sharp.  The geology under us was more karst, and in fact, there is a limestone cave.  This didn't really look like karst to me.  It was pretty sharp.  Maybe one of you geologists recognize it.

Open spaces.

Copper ore, which I'll talk more about when I tell you about my visit to the Asarco Mission open pit mine.

Back at the campsite.  It was surprisingly cold, and hot chocolate was the hit of the evening.

New Mexico into Arizona

We drove out of Texas into New Mexico and camped in Las Cruces.  This campground had one of the coolest views of any we've had.  Karin and I got to watch the sunset shining on the Organ Pipe Mountains - incredible.  It was a hot, intensely sunny day, but at night it got quite cold and the wind started blowing really hard.  At the campground, they had signs warning you not to leave your camper's awning up - and they meant it.

Yesterday we drove through New Mexico and into Arizona, where we're base camped for a day at Kartchner Caverns State Park.  This is desert.  Here's what we saw.

Sunset in Las Cruces, NM on the Organ Pipe Mountains.

Sunset on Karin :-)

The next day we were stopped at a border inspection station.  All they did was ask if we had any non-US citizens.  If I were an alien trying to evade arrest, I would not drive by this permanent station.

You might not know it, but I come from a long line of weather jinxes.  It has rained on us in every single state we've been in so far.  And, even though Las Cruces advertised 360 sunny days a year, it rained on us in both NM and in AZ.

You might have seen these fiberglass panels hanging beneath trucks.  These help the air flow around the rear wheels on semis and improve gas mileage.  I read once that they improve the mileage by 6%.

There's also these end panels that are designed to pull the air back behind the truck.  I don't know how much they improve the efficiency.

The wind was so strong, it knocked about 3 mpg off our consumption.  Check out Mrs. Dr. V's hair!

Out here Union Pacific is the main rail line.  Most we saw were hauling containers from the west coast to the middle of the country.  Here, a train is hauling rails.

Automobile carriers...

Gondolas for ore...

I just had a second to snap this picture.  There's the windmill which pumps groundwater, and the tree that survives because of the water.  Look in the other trees.  Water = life.

Its hard to see once the picture resolution is cut down to blog size, but these telephone poles just disappear right into the distant mountains.

They weren't kidding.  The wind was blowing, and there were dust devils all around.

A dust devil crossing the road.

A dust devil swirling along.  You can't tell in the picture, but this has a cyclonic motion, like a tiny tornado.

The view.

More dryness

Dust devil

Look at Sophie's mouth.  She's ready to take on those poisonous snakes and insects.

This is the pet-friendly pet walk area at the Arizona rest stop.  Those rocks are actually pretty sharp.  I guess what makes it pet friendly is that there were no cacti, poisonous snakes or insects in the actual area.  I think it was too rough for the snakes and insects.

Rain falling, but not reaching the ground.  It evaporates before it touches down.

It was sort of funny to see this giant boat in the middle of the desert.  Note that it's hanging over both lanes...

Open highway.

Mountains, and just a touch wetter climate.

One rest area was nestled in a mountain pass with these troll rocks.

You can imagine these rocks getting up at night and walking around.

And almost to our campsite in Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, AZ.

Our campground was full of these prickly pear cacti.

My dog Patch woke me up in the morning as the sun rose, so I went out and snapped a few pictures in the morning light.

Then, several cups of strong tea to start the day :-)