Thursday, February 28, 2008

Las Vegas Motor Speedway!!

We arrived in at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway mid-day on Wednesday! What a fantastic raceway!!

We have campsites in the paved Checkered Flag RV area just outside of Turn 1. We are, of course, flying our American Flag and the #24 Flag on the motorhome!!
Today we rode our bikes to one of the race shops here for a tour and what did we happen upon, but the #24 hauler unloading the #24 cars into the of course we had to stop for our photo in front of our favorite hauler.

There are 20 rigs in our group and we were happy to meet up with friends Peg & Earl Farmer (Floridians) and Bill and Carol Sharpe, our HOP hosts, from New York. We were together at the Darlington Race so it's great to see them again!

We had a catered dinner this evening and while we were eating two UPS drivers came by in their UPS golf cart on their way to "Race the Truck" at the end of the hauler parade around the race track. So they joined us for dinner and then we followed them down to the staging area and watched while they drove their specially painted-with-racing-flames UPS truck in the parade and onto the race track!
Molly, Peg & Earl with UPS drivers, Doug & Rick
Look closely to see the FLAMES on the Race Truck!

It is sunny and balmy here, great weather for the race week, so we hope it holds out until the race on Sunday!! Oh, and I bought a special shirt just to wear to the race, for my sister, Wanda. You'll be surprised when you see it...uh..I think it is green!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The things you see driving thru the desert......

Sunday we packed up and left Twentynine Palms, CA and headed northeast towards Laughlin Nevada. This route called for a long drive thru the desert on mostly two lane roads. As we left Twentynine Palms, the last sign said "Next services...100 miles". We were full of diesel, fresh water and groceries so we felt pretty good about making it at least 100 miles!
We used to think that a long drive thru the desert landscape was a long, boring drive, but no more. We have come to love the desert landscapes with the ever changing mountain backdrops. The colors change as the position of the sun and clouds change, giving the mountains hues which vary from bright gold, pink, and orange, to subtle shades of blue, purple and lavender.

It seems there is always something to ponder about as you are driving. The wild, pink Sand Verbena were plentiful on the roadsides and throughout the desert as we drove thru the flats below Sheepshole Mountain.
In addition the Lupines tinted the desert floor lavender, and White and Yellow Primroses were blooming large and bright along the road. It was a nice farewell to our wildflower search and made for awful pretty terrain!:)

Later we came to a "traffic calming" on Route this is just a little two lane road meandering thru a vast desert flat, so we wondered what in the world was happening up ahead that required the deputies to slow us down. Turns out someone was lost in the canyon and they had the Search and Rescue Horseback teams out, searching and hopefully, rescueing. There were at least five San Bernadino County Sheriff's rigs pulling horsetrailers, and quite a few "deputy horsemen" heading up into the canyon. Since Dougie doesn't have a horse trailer (not to mention horses) in his inventory of Richmond County Sheriff's vehicles at home, we got a chuckle out of the deputies on horseback. Sure hope they found the lost folks!!!

Another interesting sight was the manner in which people write their names with stones along the sides of the railroad track as it winds thru the desert.

We had never observed this custom home they may write on the rocks with spray paint as you get into the mountains of Virginia...but not in the Northern Neck.
Many people had gotten quite creative with the design and color of the stones, and it continued for many miles; as far as the tracks followed the road. We took several photos, not of the best quality, but we are easily entertained so found it interesting.

On Saturday we drove down to Palm Springs and Palm Desert. It is a lovely drive, dropping from about 3200 feet altitude in Twentynine Palms to 489 feet in Palm Springs. There are dramatic snow covered mountain tops in view for most of the drive. The first peaks were the San Gorgonio Mountains, part of the San Bernardino range, at 11,502 elevation!

As we arrived at Palm Springs, the San Jocintos peaks were in view, behind the neverending windmill farms.

The temperature was in the mid 70's and it was balmy and sunny....we can easily see why people flock to this area in the winter!

After a few days in Laughlin we will head on to Las Vegas for the Nascar race (Escapees HOP) and after that we will be heading East!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Blooming Desert, Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California

A carpet of Lupines, Blue Chia and Mojave Poppies! Sand Verbena carpeting the desert at Amboy Crater off Route 66

We left Mesa on Thursday and headed west on I 10 towards southern California, in search of the desert in bloom. We had heard and read that there was a full bloom going on in Joshua Tree National Park and up towards Mojave Desert, so we decided to swing thru that area before we head up to Laughlin. There were many slopes painted yellow in the desertscapes between Phoenix and Blyte, CA.

We stopped for the night in Desert Center, CA at a sweet campground; Lake Tamarisk Golf & Country Club. Well, Desert Center is the appropriate name for this "town", as it is at least 40 miles in either direction to anything, and there is nothing in Desert Center except desert and this campground, and I do mean nothing! It's a good thing we did not need fuel, food or groceries, because there was none to be had! The folks that winter in the CG drive east to Blythe (50 miles) or west to Joshua Tree or Indio (40 miles) to get supplies. But it was a lovely desert oasis in the truest sense of the word. A pretty lake and golf course and great campground area, with desert all around. We didn't hear any coyotes but I know they were out there somewhere!

We continued west on I 10 Friday morning, and were delighted to see Arizona blue Lupines all along the sides of the road and in the desert! We entered Joshua Tree National Park at the Cottonwood Road entrance, and the desert was aflame with color...purple, white and yellow everywhere, Lupines, Blue Chias, Primrose, Brittlebrush and more were covering the ground like a glorious carpet!

I've never seen such a beautiful sight and just couldn't believe how abundant and beautiful the flowers were!

One of my favorites were the Desert Bluebells. Such a brilliant, vivid blue and their little faces seemed to smile up at you!

At one point, there was a little rain shower and a few minutes later a rainbow developed over the mountains. In the photo you can faintly see the rainbow in front of the mountains and can see the desert flowers blooming in the lower left foreground. It was a magnificient site!
Can you see the rainbow near the top and the lupines in the front lower left?

We continued on to Amboy and drove thru Sheeps Hole pass in search of the blooming Sand Verbena. We found the most vivid displays at the base of the Amboy Crater.
Beautiful pink Sand Verbena

Amboy Crater was formed of ash and cinders and is in one of the youngest volcanic fields in the US. It straddles the Mojave and Sonoran deserts and was last active about 10,000 years ago. It's located on the old Route 66 about 1 hour from Barstow or 30 minutes from Ludlow (basically in the middle of nowhere also!). The Amboy volcanic crater

We are grateful to have seen this very pretty sight, the Desert in Bloom, which I have waited to see for many years! The winter rains allowed the desert to put on quite a show this year, and it's not over yet. It only gets better as spring brings warmer temps into the higher elevations. Wish we could be here to see more, but sure am glad we go to see the pretty sights we saw today!

To learn more about the Desert in Bloom, try this link:
and click on the Desert Wildfower Reports for Southern California.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Organ Stop Pizza, P.T. and a sunshiny day....

Tuesday started with early morning Physical Therapy and lots of sunshine. P.T. is scheduled for 8:45; that may not seem early, but the sun doesn't come up until about 7:40 so it's hard to wake up as early as we normally do. Burke Maughan, (therapist) gave a good report and proclaims that I'm about two thirds back to "normal". I've been working very hard to do the exercises twice daily; and they are still painful, but I know I'm making progress because I can get the arm up pretty well and into positions that it hasn't been into in a long time! So I'll keep working on it!!

We did "honey do" things, then relaxed at the pool all afternoon, warming our bones. It was a perfectly beautiful day, a "ten" for sure!

Tuesday night we went to Organ Stop Pizza for dinner. Pizza is not usually Bob's favorite, but we had heard that this was most a interesting place to go, and that the pizza was extraordinarily good. Besides, the main attraction there is a 1927 Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ and the performance of Lew Williams, the organist.
This magnificient organ has nearly 6000 pipes, and the wind required for its operation comes from four huge turbine blowers in a blower complex. This is the largest Wurlitzer theatre organ in the world. The organ rises from below in the center of the stage and is an ornate black glossy lacquer with extensive gold leaf application and decoration.

The organ performance is choreographed with lighting which highlights each set of pipes that are played during a song. It is quite amazing not only to hear, but to see the pipes, chimes, xylophones, glockenspiel, cymbols, bongos, and many others in action and lighted in time to the music. There are drums, washtubs, an accordian, train whistles, bells; you name it, it's there! Even a duck on it's nest and a bird in a cage! (You all know how much Bob loves lighting and sound, so this was right up his alley!)

Lew Williams is wonderful on the organ and delighted us with many favorites, including Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Phantom of the Opera, Sentimental Journey, Rhapsody in Blue and the National Anthem. There were lots of granpa's and gramma's there with their grandkids; we guessed there were between 600 and 700 people there. What a fun night!! The pizza was crispy and delicious and we truly enjoyed the whole evening.

We enjoyed the organ and the pizza so much that we returned for dinner on Wednesday evening with our niece Dawn, and Ron. What fun evenings we enjoyed!!

Thursday brings more PT and we will probably depart Mesa and head for California,the Mohave Desert and the Joshua Tree National Park, in search of the desert in bloom!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Traveling the Apache Trail

Monday Morning we left early heading to Apache Junction and the start of the Apache Trail. The Apache Trail, which is Arizona Route 88,is a breathtaking drive from the edge of Mesa to the town of Globe, via Theodore Roosevelt Lake, through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest; 40 miles of steep, winding and mostly unpaved road past magnificent scenery of mountains with dense forests of saguaro and several deep blue lakes with dramatic canyon walls dropping down to the crystal water. Past Roosevelt Lake, the trail continues on to paved roads, to the copper mining towns of Globe and Miami. The trail was built at the turn of the last century as a road to get building materials through the Superstition Mountains to the Roosevelt Dam, following the trail of the aboriginal Indians of previous centuries.

As we were beginning the drive and first saw the mountains drop to the edge of Canyon Lake, my first thought was of the Bavarian Alps and the lakes at Garmisch and Bertchesgarten. Continuing on, you are reminded of the beauty of the Grand Canyon and the mountains in Denver. As we stopped at Fish Creek Canyon, we read a quote from President Teddy Roosevelt which really summed up the entire experience:

"The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have. To me, it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature has created,"

The desert ground would normally be brown and dry, where it is now lush and green, surrounding the Church

Since there has been quite a bit of rain here in Southern Arizona and in the Sonoran Desert, the desert floor has a tiny, lush green, fuzz over the usually brown, dry and sandy backdrop. The desert flowers are beginning to show themselves and are hinting of a magnificent season for desert blooms.

I have been fascinated by the desert in bloom since we first visited Bob's brother, Bill, who lived in Casa Grande for many years before his death. We were there in late March and saw the remnants of the desert flowers in a normal year. Several years later we visited in early April and went to Sabino Canyon in Tucson and had another taste of desert flora and fauna. You may remember in 2005 when Death Valley blossomed due to heavy and unusual winter rains and mother nature painted the desert in rainbow hues that had not been seen for over fifty years. I wanted to visit Death Valley so badly that year, but just could not accomodate the trip in our schedule.

The desert flowers above are, descending, Wild Blue Heliotrope, Brittlebrush, and far off Arizona Gold Poppies bloom on the slope

Well, it looks like 2008 is going to be another year for the history books of the desert in bloom and I am so excited that we may be able to see much of it. Today there were many flowers blooming along the desert road and in the canyons .................BrittleBrush, Arizona Gold Poppies were abundant today and we even spotted some Wild Blue Heliotrope and one Arizona Blue Lupine!! Word is that the desert will bloom early and more abundantly than it has in many years. Hopefully we can make a trip into the California deserts to view the blooms before we head back east!

Above: An Arizona Lupine blossom opens tentatively in the desert

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gypsy Journal Rally in Casa Grande

The Rally started on Monday afternoon. You may be wondering what happens at a RV rally....well it's about getting together with other Rver's to camp, eat, attend seminars and do some things that benefit others, all at the same time, and have fun while doing it. So this is exactly what we did in Casa Grande.

Of course we went out to eat several times and enjoyed that. We also had a Sweetheart Appetizer dinner on Valentine's Day.

Some of the seminars available were about Rving and things you need to know to do so safely, etc. There were fire safety sessions, presentations on traveling in Alaska, and even one on writing creatively and creating blogs. We also collected food for the Food Bank and the food was delivered to the little town of nearby Coolidge.

And then there was the Miss Cactus Queen Contest!!! Now, Bob has some experience with this endeavor, so he was pressed into service! We managed to get 8 men involved in the "contest", which would benefit the C.A.R.E. portion of Escapees. (CARE is an assisted living option in Livingston, Texas) The photos tell the whole story....

BELOW: Cheri Holcomb applies Mary Kay make-up to Boom Boom Betty Bedwetter

ABOVE:Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy (Tony Jones)

ABOVE:Rosie LaRoach (Howie Glover), Boom Boom Betty Bedwetter (Bob) & Sally Salmonella (Jim Chapman)

Left:Rosie La Roach (Howie Glover) with Nick Russell, emcee, Right: Boom Boom Betty Bedwetter (Bob Pinner) Below: Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy (Tony Jones) and baby Cabbage Patch Nicky

ABOVE LEFT: Esther Estrogena (Sal Tumolo)Miss Cactus Queen 2008 ABOVE RIGHT: Carletta Carwasha (Joe Jones)

At the end of the contest. the "ladies" waited at the exit and literally passed their hats, collecting a total of over $800 which will be sent to C.A.R.E.

ABOVE LEFT: Tanya Tonsillitis (Paul Anderson) with wife Connie ABOVE RIGHT: Nick and Miss Terry Russell share a dance after the contest

There has been rain on several days out here so the desert is getting rather green. It's very interesting to see the buttes and the sand with the little greenish tint. I can't wait to see the desert when it really starts blooming! It should be good this year.