Monday, February 25, 2013

Quartzsite to the Salton Sea

If you are looking for something to top the last posting then I can warn you now--it will be a long while before I will find a subject as good as Paul Winer...

So, for now it is back to scenery.

The road out of Quartzsite leads toward the mountains.  I decided I couldn't go too wrong if I left the freeway for a while so I turned toward a small town called Mecca and discovered that I was plunging down into a canyon...

It curved a lot but the road was not bad. And there was little traffic compared to Interstate-8 with its inevitable lineup of semi's that pushed me all over the road.
At the bottom of the canyon I found the most interesting drive--wild and unpopulated, with only an occasional camper tucked up under the great formations of rock.

  If the radio had not been warning me that a storm was brewing then I would have stayed a while.  Named Box Canyon, this was all BLM land so camping is free, neighbors are a long distance away and campsites are defined only by what strikes your fancy.

 A glance at my GPS told me how far in a hole I had dropped.  Minus 207 feet-- and the road was still dropping.

And when I emerged from the Canyon I was on this lake, AKA, the Salton Sea.

 The enormous Salton Sea is much more than a lake.  In places it is so vast you cannot see across.  Also, it lies in the bottom of a deep bowl and, because the only way water can leave here is through evaporation, the sea is many many times saltier than the ocean.  It is surrounded by mountain ranges that lock it in and it is the winter home of great flocks of local and migrating birds.

There is a lovely state park on the lake and I decided to stop for the night.

But the ranger warned me that the storm that was coming would hit about noon the next day and I best not try to cross the mountains until it passed. The prediction was for snow, ice and 75 MPH winds.

Sunset that night was so peaceful..

with only the sound of the birds settling down for the night.

It was hard for me to imagine bad weather at this point but I decided that I would spend a night or two in the small farming town of El Centro in the Imperial Valley and wait out the storm.

Sure enough, the first night I slipped into a parking lot near an apartment building and thought I would not be noticed.  Except, those 75 MPH winds beat against the side of the RV so much it set off my alarm system--twice!

The second night I tried parking for wind protection, on the lee side of a vacant shopping center but, for the first time in 18 months, I got rousted!  The empty shopping center had a security guard that woke up at 1AM, surmised that I didn't belong there and  ordered me to leave.  I returned to the apartment building parking lot for the rest of the night then left town at 6 AM with fingers crossed that the wind would die down.  I did not want to try and find another place to safely spend the night.  After all,  it was only about a three hour drive to San Diego but the mountains were in the way.  And they were covered with snow. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Naked Bookseller/musician and all that Jazz

So, you think I was kidding about the Naked Musician? Well, this is the best reason I know to come to Quartzsite.
(I must confess that I lied in my last posting.  There are a few permanent structures in the town and this is one of them.)

As you enter the town from the east you will see this used-book store on the right.

The day I arrived I found several authors there for book-signings.  Joe Gerard was one author who told me he had been coming to Quartzsite in his RV for years from Challis, Idaho and he gave me some great tips on places to see when I get to that state.

Inside I found an amazing bookstore with lots of interesting nooks & crannies ....

Including hundreds, if not thousands, of long-forgotten titles and authors.  The fellow behind the counter informed me that the owner, Paul Winer, would be back in a few minutes so I should 'get my camera out and just wait'.
He didn't ask, nor seem to care, why I was there--he just assumed it was because I wanted to see Paul Winer.

And when Paul came rushing through the door in a flurry I could clearly see why the clerk thought I might indeed be interested.  Paul is a very slight man with the brownest, leathery skin I think I have ever seen--much like a well-basted and roasted Thanksgiving turkey.


And I could see a lot of it--actually just about all of it!

A large crowd had gathered around the piano and Paul obliged by immediately sitting and playing some really great boogie-woogie style music that he, himself,  had written. 

He exuded energy, playing vigorously for 15 minutes or so, then jumping up and moving books around so he could add another piano into the already over-crowded bookstore. Some of the customers pitched in and helped him unload from a pickup and bring in a second piano that someone had donated to his store.

It took only a few minutes before the novelty-of-nudity was replaced by his very comfortable-in-his-own-skin personality.   Paul's talent as a musician and his charismatic personality held the attention of the 20 people jammed into that bookstore--and mine as well.
I learned that he and his wife had moved to Quartzsite years before due to the health of their child.  Tragically, their daughter's illness took her life at the very young
age of 8 but the Winers stayed on to become fixtures in the town.

All the time I was there Paul never stood still long enough for me to get a full-frontal picture but a few of his motorcycle friends took the one above.
I had heard about Paul long before I started on this trip and I knew, without a doubt, he would have to be one of my Quests.  I feel as though I have earned my 'merit badge'.
By the way, Paul's wife makes all of his accessories--little crocheted bags to hold all his junk.  (Sorry about that)

Friday, February 22, 2013


It's the Mecca for full time RVers.  It's the mid-winter, middle-of-the-desert, you've-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it meeting place for anyone fool enough to live and travel in a breadbox on wheels. I knew I would have to experience a couple of days in Quartzsite, otherwise there would be no way to say I was a truly serious boondocking vagabond.

The above, not-so-scenic picture was where I spent my two nights--in the parking lot conveniently positioned behind the charming truck stop gas station and an all-night McDonald's.  However, It was walking distance to Q--the best restaurant on the main drag where meatloaf and fried sweet potatoes are the choice items on the menu and the two veteran waitresses easily handled approximately 25 tourists and 50 loud, boisterous and occasionally obnoxious locals.

I had to include this picture of Sigh Me to show some 'charm' in my otherwise stark surroundings.

Rise and shine--we have sightseeing to do.  I quickly dressed and jumped into the driver's seat only to glance to my left and see the following...

My neighbor was still fast asleep in the back of his car--right next to me. First I took a stealth photo, then, in a hurry to get away without disturbing his slumber, I  put the key in the ignition--and instantly set off my car alarm!  The poor man jumped a foot.  Then he muttered something rude,  covered his head and went back to sleep.   Such manners!  He didn't even say, 'Good morning'

I drove up and down every street in Quartzsite--just because there aren't many streets and not a lot to see except for block after block of RV dealerships, countless flea markets, lots of dusty roads leading off into the desert, and an endless array of houses-on-wheels.  The entire population of this town of 250,000 could be evacuated in 5 minutes, complete with all their belongings, at the first sign of summer's 100+ degree weather, or if a killer asteroid, or any other crazy attack, should head their way. I did not see even one permanent dwelling anywhere, except for the one above.  Hi Jolly is not going anywhere.

At one point in the history of the west, the US government decided to import camels as pack animals...

From the marker...
"This pyramid of native stone marks the resting place of Hi Jolly, a Greek born in Syria, also known as Hadji Ali.  Hi Jolly was hired in 1857 as a camel herder in the U.S. Army's short-lived historic Camel an expedition to chart a wagon road across New Mexico and Arizona...In 1861 the Civil War commenced, ending the day of the Camel Corps.  Hi Jolly returned to Quartzsite, trying his hand at mining, packing, scouting, delivering the 'Jackass Mail', and selling water to travelers.  The Quartzsite Cemetery is named in Hi Jolly's honor"
The camel atop the Pyramid symbolizes the legend of The Red Ghost that roamed the desert, terrorizing man and beast with what amounted to a corpse tied to his back.  Legend also has it that the ashes of Topsy, Hi Jolly's favorite camel and companion are also placed in the bronze time capsule (at the base of this monument).

So why do RVers come to Quartzsite in the winter?  Well, the temperature is consistently warm, though the wind and dust can get pretty tiresome.  I met a couple of retired folks, whose RV cost upwards of $300,000,  and they have called Quartzsite their winter home for a dozen years or more.  They also told me Florida is too expensive, too crowded and too humid.

Parking on BLM land is free and there is a whole lot of BLM land around Quartzsite.  As a matter of fact, almost all the land around the town is BLM land and RV's can be seen for miles out into the desert.
There is a definite camaraderie amongst the occupants with little distinction between that guy sleeping in the back of his car and the couple living in their plush rolling mansion.  Motorcyclists rub elbows with retired school teachers, authors have book signings at the used book store, aging hippies make beads to sell at the flea market, a nude jazz musician pounds out great music on the piano for the enjoyment of all.  (I kid you not.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

BeDillon's in Casa Grande

Ron suggested I try this restaurant in Casa Grande so I made it my first stop after leaving Tucson.  The  house, restaurant and gardens have been around for many years, though the owners have changed hands a few times


Casa Grande is midway between Phoenix and Tucson and all I ever knew about the town was what could be seen from the freeway... ghastly fast food restaurants and truck stops-- so I was happy to learn about something different.   

In all the years I've lived in Arizona I don't think I had ever driven into the town of Casa Grande itself.  The freeway exit that led to the Dairy Queen restroom was an automatic stop in my otherwise boring travel plans of years past.  

Well, this little restaurant, tucked away in an older residential area, complete with its cactus garden was charming and worth leaving the highway to find.

I was surprised to discover the food was very American instead of Mexican.  I had a prime rib sandwich that turned out to be excellent.  Reservations are recommended--they appear to be exceptionally busy.

Afterwards I spent my first night sleeping in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel--and felt so guilty because I had eaten dinner somewhere else.  So, because I think CB's are awesome, I went in and had breakfast with them in the morning.  I knew this would be my last time for a while to enjoy the CB hospitality since California has yet to erect a Cracker Barrel within its borders.
Any restaurant chain that puts out a map showing RV travelers which Cracker Barrel restaurants are okay to spend the night, and then they go so far as to mark their parking lots showing where RV's may park, deserve a special salute.

It felt really good to be traveling again.  I brewed a cup of herb tea, pulled out my latest book, read for an hour, then snuggled with Sigh Me and slept soundly.

BTW, "Modoc" is another  book that has my 'seal of approval'.  A really charming true story about the ' greatest elephant that ever lived'.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The best laid plans...are full of surprises

If all goes as planned I will be leaving Tucson sometime tomorrow.  That is if I don't get any more calls from some lab or another telling me I have an 'unexplainable lump in the flappidoodle' and must see a flappidoodle specialist ASAP.  If that sounds silly then let me tell you, I have had all my flappidoodles examined, probed, stress-tested, camera-photographed, biopsied, tickled and massaged the last month--and all to little reward and lots of anxiety. Nothing serious has been found and no explanation for some worrying symptoms has come out of all the time and money spent.
So I am now armed with lots of vitamins, supplements and antacid tablets,  plus a membership in the Silver Sneakers Fitness Program--a fitness program that is available nation-wide through my insurance.

Fainally.....Westward Ho!  Time to get this show on the road.

I will miss Tucson.  This town is always producing surprises for me.  I know the above picture is out-of-focus but I think the fuzziness defines that 5:00 pm shimmer that often settles on the mountains around the city. The colors change by the minute and it is not unusual to see people stopped in their tracks to admire the 'glow'.

Tucked behind walls and fences are delightful little courtyards that are semi-cool reminders of a life before suburban sprawl, air conditioned houses, and life styles too busy for an afternoon siesta.  (I could not see this courtyard from the street but I stuck my camera up to the crack in the wall, clicked,  and this is what I found.  Okay, not very nice of me--I know.)

The Devil made me do it.

Some surprises leave me scratching my head.  This is on the side of a church.  Holy Hummingbird?

So now I will spend two days running around town, hugging and kissing and saying 'goodbye' to some of the greatest friends a person could ask for. I will miss them all for perhaps the next 9 or 10 months--when I expect to return-- if there aren't any more surprises.

Enough said!

Monday, February 11, 2013

More things I love--Janice

Number one on any Mom's list of requirements is to brag on their children.

It's not so easy if you have amassed a brood of knuckle-headed off-spring who more closely resemble the Neanderthals in the family tree ...

than that brilliant physicist your cousin produced.

Thank goodness that is not a problem I have had to deal with--my three children are talented beyond belief.

They are also loving and generous and good looking and....


Daughter, Janice, sews these little critters for pleasure, for friends, for families and to sell.

They just make me smile.

I wish I could show other of her great needlework.

She has a slew of ribbons from both the Washington and the Oregon State Fairs for her needlepoint.

But these little guys seem to bring out her inner personality. (Hmm, should I be worried?)

                                   And this week I relish any 'smile prescriptions' I can get.

                                      Thanks for the pictures, Honey.  I really appreciate them.

                                            Janice, Artiste Extraordinaire