Saturday, February 19, 2011

....Some Rain Must Fall.

Like everyone else, I've had my share of ups and downs. The proverbial "Into each life some rain must fall" has not escaped me just like it probably has not escaped you. But of late, I've been on a roll, and in fact, though it may seem hard to believe- I have not had a single day of rain (speaking literally now; done with the metaphor for the time being) since we left Florida in mid-December. Something on the order of 63 days now totally without rain. That is an unbelievable run at sunshine, even if the good Lord had to throw in a chill here and there and a stiff breeze or two just to make things interesting. I'll take it, love it, especially in a year where everyone else and his brother has been hammered by crappy winter weather. Those several among you who have always chided me for bringing the bad weather with me when I came your way are going to have to lighten up at least for now. You know who you are (Joan, who?).

But a few days back, the writing was on the wall....actually it was on the Yahoo! weather report, but you know what I mean. The rain was coming. It didn't seem like we would be able to "duck it" (get it?) this time. And sure enough. It rained hard at times last night. It was raining and a blowing when we got up this morning. And it looks as though there could be a bit more tonight and on in to early tomorrow. But why write about a rainy day? It's no biggie, right? Oh, but it is! This is the desert. For real. They don't get much rain here, and when they do get it this time of year, it is the forerunner of good things to come- the desert in bloom. And in truth, one of our biggest reasons for wanting to be here at this time is to be here when the desert begins to bloom. Two years ago we "pulled out of Dodge" too soon. We had seen many beautiful sights, and a few species in flower, but not the significant bursting forth that the desert is capable of. We vowed to ourselves then that we would come back to be here, to experience that as soon as we could arrange to do so...and here we are. Unless, the expectation of the mind is playing tricks on me, the desert foliage, such as it is, began to green up already in just a day. And a few small daisy like flowers popped out immediately alongside the road today. They weren't open yesterday. We didn't get enough rain yet to make the "dry" washes run with water, but presumably that will come at some point heading into Spring. But already the so-called creosote bushes (no relationship to the wood preservative of the same name) are throwing off the sweet smell that is characteristic of them whenever they get wet with rain. It is a pleasant change from the smell of the desert dust, which also seems to have its own distinct aroma- not bad, just not terrific.

So knowing that the rain was coming, we set out to accomplish a few things we felt we needed to do before it wet things down. Armed with our dry mining apparatus packed in the van and a map that Lynn was kind enough to print off his computer, we set out to find the locations of two mining claims. We had been to them two years ago, in a follow-the-leader- type situation and thought with the maps and our new hand-held gps unit that we should be able to find them on our own. I've been wrong before- so this was not the first time! While we had the map, the gps, and some area familiarity, we just didn't have enough way-points noted to be able to stay on the necessary track. So we did what most people do when they are "lost"- we went in circles. It didn't help matters any that one of the printed instructions to the GPAA claim told those seeking it to "keep to the right of the main traveled path." For starters, we should NOT have stayed to the right. And anyone with minimal experience on desert trails, and especially those with NO experience riding at the head of the pack, that tells you they know which is the "main traveled path" from the hundreds of criss-crossing paths that wrap around the base of mountains and run through washes and up the other side a hundred yards "downstream" may or may not be telling you an outright lie, but he is most assuredly suffering from delusions of grandeur. So after 3 hours of circling the wagons (I love it when a theme repeats itself) and after having taken some wrong turns on tight paths and putting a few scratches (sometimes referred to as "desert pin striping) on the van, we limped back to camp feeling less than accomplished. We had tried and failed- make that "not succeeded"-but we had learned some valuable lessons. We learned what info we needed to have in order to be successful on the next attempt. We needed way-points. A lot of them. Latitude and Longitude coordinates for points on the map where-ever a turn needed to be made accurately. More detailed mapping. And again, with Lynn's help we gathered the materials to work on that over the next couple days. There was a feeling that maybe we still wouldn't reach our destination and we hemmed and hawed about trying again on our own for two days.

But ultimately we decided to go in with the ATV and not the van. More maneuverable in tight quarters- meaning that we could turn around a whole lot easier if we got off course. Marilyn entered 18 way-points to each custom trip to the two destinations after I used several computer programs to determine what they needed to be. Mapsource gave me the routes, Google earth gave me the topo features. The Honda ATV also has a "bread crumb" gps unit built in, so we marked our trail at each and every intersection and turn. If nothing else, we could track ourselves back to where we started. This time it all came together and we found not one, but both of our destinations, and with enough time to spare before we needed to head back out to the van that we did some exploring of other claims while we were back in there. Track one covered about 7 miles each way in and out. Track two about 6 miles each way in and out. We noted each and every way-point in and out for learning purposes. Using a gps in the desert where there are no real roads is way different than putting in a town and driving down the interstate.

Now if I made any of this sound like for one minute we were at any risk of getting really lost, let me clear that up. Not finding a needle in a haystack is not the same thing as not knowing where the haystack is. I bring in the haystack analogy in deference to our friend Farmer Don, who while leading a ride one day pointed out a valuable but obvious tip and taught me a valuable lesson:

"Just look around," he said. "The flat top mountain over there on the horizon is the direction home. The water towers on the side of the mountain mark the campground. There's a ranch you can see way over there from any high point, and a cattle yard over there. The cell phone towers atop the sharp peak mark trails on either side of Rt 10." Now paying attention to those things instead of the rider in front of me and behind me, I never felt for one second like I would be unable to find my way out should push come to shove.

So before the rain arrived we had located two spots we will return to when things dry up again and get back to some prospecting. But what to do on a rainy day in the desert? There was a chili cook off being held up in Wendon. Where is Wendon, you ask? We drove northeast in the general direction of Salome, AZ. We had to go past the village of Hope, AZ. The good folks of Hope were nice enough to put out a big sign welcoming visitors and passers by to Hope. They also put up another sign to let us know: Your (sic) Beyond Hope. Gonna need some work on the spelling on the sign, but clever and memorable- I like that. But come to think of it, it may not be the first time someone told me I was beyond hope.

pistachios on the tree

The chili cook off was a hoot, but the under cover areas were pretty limited and the rain and damp and cold combination forced our decision not to hang around all afternoon. Instead we went on a local sight seeing trip. We found a pistachio orchard with a few nuts still hanging on to the winter boughs. And yes, in the desert and miles away from any large body of salt water, or any water for that matter, we came across a farm for sale with an address of Ocean View Drive. Very funny, these locals! Especially on a rainy day....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Tuesday @ 2:00

This is the second in a two part series based on "Happy Tuesday." To read Part I, which sets the stage.... CLICK HERE.

The power of positive thinking tells us that we can do the virtually impossible. Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing is for sure, the gang here at Desert Gold in Brenda, Arizona, can use it to take an ordinary day of the week and make it anything but! Welcome to Happy Tuesday!

We gather at the big tent. It's a something by something tent that provides shade when it's needed, protection from the wind when it's needed, and a safe haven for the bar, the condiments, the paper goods, some cooking space, and all sorts of items that would otherwise need to be dragged in and packed away after each gathering were it held out in the open. And it provides shelter from the rain. But then, much as I hate to say it to those of you who have had a very "weather" kind of year- we haven't seen a drop of the stuff since mid December when we came out this way. Maybe not you want to hear; but just sayin'.

Whatever other activities may be on the docket for the day, one thing is constant: Dinner is at 2:00. It's a pot luck. Maybe more like a buffet. Everyone brings something and everything they bring is good! Really good! Entres. Veggies. Novelty "tastes." Desserts." Be still, my heart!

It may be 5 o'clock somewhere. It may be Happy Hour for parrot-heads in Margarita-ville. But in Brenda, it is Happy Tuesday, so the select drink specialty of the day is served as an appetizer to the buffet line. Today's specialty item- lemonade. Lemons from a full bag of fresh ones. Sugar from a big bowl. Ice from a freezer chest. And vodka... from, well, a bottle of vodka. Not too much. Just enough to make you feel like an adult. Flavor? Sip it slow and wait for the glow. Lynn transports his "Chicken" grilling skills to the "Brenda Blenda" and presto- out pours a desert smoothy of extraordinary richness.

It's a regular gathering of friends for good times and good eats. A day without pressure. A "timeout" for seniors. A day for the young at heart to "play" their age, not act it. And it's downright fun.

Golf. Of COURSE.

I'm interested in a lot of things. Golf has never been one of them. And while I consider myself much more of a "personal commentator" than a reporter, I none the less tagged along (with permission) on a golf outing here at Desert Gold campground today. I wanted to see what went on out there in the desert. This is NOT your typical golf course!

So today I'll be offering some comments both on what I saw and what I learned, with the disclaimer that absolutely none of what I will write about today has much of anything to do with anything- except one thing- F.U.N.

You see, today is Happy Tuesday here. Just like the other days of the week, it comes around each and every week. For most people, Tuesday is the day after the first day of the work week, the day before "hump" day, and two days before the downhill slide to Friday which we all thank God for...TGIF. It's never been attached to a weekend- either at the front or the back. In short: it's not special. Ever. Except here. Where it is special every week. Happy Tuesday, it seems has been designated a weekly day of play. You can get a little work done if you must, but only if you do it in limited amounts between the designated "fun" activities.

Now Desert Gold is not a big campground, at least by my standards, but it is well thought out and inhabited by an energetic and playful lot of campers. So Tuesday's schedule can include any of the many activities available to campers here. There's a swimming pool (wet volleyball anyone?), a hot tub, a bingo parlor, an exercise room, a craft room, rec room, a sing-a-long room. There's a free car wash and oil change area for those "honey do-s" and I suppose that is work or "happy" depending on your point of view. There are ATV trips and rock collecting trips, and just a whole host of things you could choose to do any day of the week. But Happy Tuesday is a controlled situation....

And it begins with a round of golf! Now before you go picturing acres of lush green manicured grass and stately palms, caddies with heavy bags full of costly clubs, and electric powered carts that get the exercise instead of you..., remember this is the desert. You have a better chance of finding gold, lizards, rocks, and sharp prickly things on the course than you do a single blade of grass. The course- all 18 holes of it- is all natural. The rocks, the cactus, the Saguaros, the scrub brush, the mesquite trees and creosote bushes have neither been planted nor moved. They are where they are where they have always been. Talk about hazards; they are everywhere. Golf is challenging. But even walking can be difficult. And a golf ball driven with a small iron and by someone with a strong swing- well, sir, it goes where-ever it wants to go, especially if it hits a rock (which is COMMON). It doesn't roll down the fairway, it ricochets like a steel ball in an old time pin ball machine. Before you can yell "fore" that little sucker ball can come right back and smack you right between the eyes if'n it has a mind to.... And while this can be problematic in its own right, it can also be a blessing, because at least when that happens you know where your ball went- which is an entirely different matter, as some balls that veer off can be down right impossible to find- no matter what color ball your are playing with.

So as seeing is believing, we'll use some stills and a slide show to get the point across. But not before I show off my new golf knowledge. Now I've heard a few of these terms before but only had a vague idea what they actually meant. So let me tell you what I leaned about golf out there. "Knowledge is good!", he said with a grin on his face.

PAR- that is the number of whacks you are supposed to take with a bent metal weapon called a club to get the ball from the Tee ( as in I'm Tee'd off) to the hole. In the desert the hole is three feet across, not three inches and it's still darn hard to land in.

Score- this is the number of shots each player has used to reach the current hole based on the number of "holes" they have played. The score is not important! (but everyone seemed to know what theirs was :-))

Eagle- this is what a player gets if he makes it to the hole in two shots less than the posted par.

Birdie- this is what the player gets if he reaches the hole with one fewer stroke than that of the posted par.

Bogie- this is the score on the hole of a golfer who takes one more stroke than par; it is not what forms in your nose while you are out in the desert breathing all that dust....and it's pronounced differently too.

Double Bogie- this is what the golfer gets if he hits more rocks than normal on any hole and uses two strokes more than par. And finally:

Flat Ass Lousy- this is what they call the golfer that uses three or more strokes than that called for by the PAR.

Wow. That was a lot to remember. I hope I got it right.

The weekly golf tournaments kick off each Happy Tuesday. I'm happy they let me tag along to cover the event. What do you think the odds are they're ever going to let me out on the course again after this?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Street Legal - The Final Word On The Matter

Over two years ago now, we visited this part of Arizona for the first time. We were taking the Honda Rincon “GPScape” ATV on its maiden voyage to the desert southwest. Arizona has some of the most liberal riding laws in the nation and we were bound and determined to be able to take full advantage of them. But that would require understanding the laws and abiding by them, as there are significant fines and penalties for not being in compliance. This seems more than fair. They are giving riders a lot of leeway, so playing by the rules is surely a gesture of good faith in return.

But what were the rules, exactly? Our first stop was the Red Rock area near Sedona and because they have lots of tourist information, we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce information Center down town. Surely they would know the ins and outs of the law and be able to guide tourists on how to play by the rules. And sure enough, they had a nice little three-fold pamphlet that purported to say what could, could not, and must and must not be done. But even that pamphlet had a few discrepancies, so we sauntered on up to the desk to ask our questions.

Can a “bike” (my reference to an ATV - All Terrain Vehicle-a gas powered toy that will take you just about anywhere you tell it to…) that is registered in another state be driven here?

Is a permit required for use in Arizona, especially if you are not a resident here?

What items constitute “street legal”- the ability to configure the bike so as to be legal and permissible to ride on paved or “improved” roadways in the state of Arizona?

There were some other questions as well, but this will get us started. The nice lady at the counter at that point in time was not sure she knew the answers, but she informed that “the guy who will surely know will be back from lunch any minute now.” When he returned from lunch, he ventured his opinions, but he too was not “sure” and called in another “ranger” to the conference…. We left the tourist bureau with answers but they were a mixed bag and we didn’t really have a lot more confidence that we understood things much better than when we walked through the door.

From there, we traveled to a number of other venues in search of truth, justice, and the American way….make that the Arizona way. We talked to the police. We talked to government offices. We talked to outfitters and guides. And over and over we got the same thing: We think you can do this. We think you can do that. But we’re really not sure and if we are wrong and the officer who pulls you over for a check does not agree with us- well- that could be bad.

Ultimately, everyone begged off on the definitive answers we sought, but decided that if we traveled to the Department of Motor Vehicles in another Town, surely we could get the appropriate answers. Well, I’m not one to challenge authority without just cause, so off we went. Once at the office of the DMV, we took a number and “parked it.” When our number was called some time later- you guessed it- the lady behind the counter was not sure of the answer to our questions. But she allowed that if we had a bit more time, we could get an appointment with someone in the inner office that was in charge of “statutes” and would most certainly be able to answer all our questions. And sure enough, that individual spoke with great clarity and authority, and even went so far as to print out a few of the statutes for us to carry on board in the event of some problem or question as to whether or not someone whose bike was registered out of state could ride in the desert, ride on the roads, even ride into town without fear of doing something wrong.

We felt much better. We felt legitimate. We felt legal. We felt like any challenge could be won should it come to that.

We rode. We rode in the desert. We rode around town. We even rode into the Pilot fuel stop, parked our seemingly midget bike beside the 18 wheelers and fueled up right alongside them. We were proud. This was cool! And there aren’t many, if any, other places where you can do this.

But were we street legal? I mean really?

Now fast forward to today. Well, not actually today, but this most recent visit to Arizona. Yuma. Yes we rode there. We rode in the desert. We rode around town. We even rode into town and fueled up beside the big rigs yet again. Then on to Brenda. We rode in the desert. We rode in the town, down the highway, across the street, where-ever it felt right to be riding…we rode. Until one night with a gathering of friends, one of the guys with a lot more Arizona experience than we have looked at us and said: “You know, you’re not street legal!”

What? Huh? How can this be? We have been to the tourist bureau and they told us what to do. We have been to the police and they told us what to do. We have been to the bureaucrats who make their living telling people what they can and can’t do…and they told us what to do. But more importantly, we have had a sitting with the statue person at the DMV who told us, complete with written documentation: You are legal in Florida for how Florida allows you to ride (which by the way is NOT on the street- ever) so you can ride in Arizona for 30 days the way Arizona allows you to ride. All you need to do is have brake lights, headlights, an 8ft “whip” with a signal flag, use hand turn signals…..You are good to go. And so we went.

But this guy was saying we needed a sticker, a new title, a new registration, a license plate with a light over it, and on and on.

Well, the mere thought that we were NOT street legal sent shivers down the spine. Better check on all of this, before our luck wears off if in fact this new reality is the truth. The very idea of the reported 700 dollar fine? Not good. So back to the police we went. This time to the Quartzsite Police, where the desk officer agreed with what we had been told. We needed to do pretty much just as he had said….

So back to the DMV we went- this time in Parker. Again the nice lady behind the desk knew just what we needed and promptly set about taking care of the paperwork that would do the job. We felt good that finally things would be as they should be. Or would they? The police officer back in town had assured us this would NOT require giving up our Florida registration and insurance. But as we signed the last of the Arizona documents, the clerk asked us to “surrender your Florida registration documents and change your insurance to Arizona.”

But, but, but, the nice police in Quartzsite assured us we did not need to do that!

“Yea, they don’t know about that part of it down there. You must. And besides,” said she, “just call the insurance company and they will gladly switch the insurance from Florida to Arizona. No problem!”

OH NO THEY WON’T! The insurance company it seemed had other ideas about how to handle that. First cancel the old policy and send us a letter that reads in part- “you no longer have insurance with us….” But didn’t we just take out a new policy with you for Arizona. Yes, but first we must cancel the old one before the new one take effect. What a good idea.

Piles of paperwork later, and a bunch of (two days to be exact) running around, the title, the registration, the insurance, the license plate with a light over it, the red flag, the rear view mirrors, the tail lights, the head lamps with high and low beams, the electric horn, the brake that can be operated by hand or foot, the red reflectors, the muffler in good working condition, the seat and footrest for the operator, the fuel tank cap AND the OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) sticker were all sanctioned and done up as they were supposed to be.

Ride tall, ride proud, be at ease. You are Street Legal now!

I think....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Circle The Wagons Ride

Lynn and Jude were off visiting Chicken Mike and Miss Lou at their new digs in Tubac and taking in the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, so in their absence someone needed to step up and lead the rides. And for this ride, Don was just the fellow to do that. Now Don is just about as friendly and as funny a guy as God ever put on the face of the earth. He is a joy! He is an excellent rider and drives a big "side by" that is really great because he can carry chairs and spare fuel for those of us that are size and gear restricted. And he knows lots of good things to head out to discover from our camp here in Brenda. Like all of us out there, Don carries a GPS. Note: I said "carries." I did not say "uses," although he can use one with the best of them, Don prefers to navigate by the stars. Well, OK, not the stars, since rides take place during daylight hours. But Don likes to navigate by the sun (and hey that's a star) and the moon and the mountains and other desert profiles and elevations that are visible to those who pay attention to their position on the horizon. He is good at it. But because there are literally thousands of trails and washes from which to choose one's path, not using the GPS can, and does, occasionally lead to dead ends that were not anticipated, or a path that just plain can't take you where you actually wanted to go. We have come to call them "circle the wagons." You might think that turning around and reversing directions in the desert would be a piece of cake. Oh, contraire! Many of the trails, especially those that pass through the mountains, are narrow and "single lane." Turning around in a place where there isn't room to do that can be downright dangerous. Finding a place for a turn-a-bout for a single rider, let alone a train of riders that then have to pass each other, can be difficult in its own right. So when this does happen, and we eventually find the turn around opportunity, we like to "follow the leader" and raise our non-accelerator hand in the air and make the sign of "circle the wagons." If this happens once or twice it is considered par for the course. If it happens multiple times, it starts to become a running gag, complete with whooping and hollering. If it happens way more than it should, then it really starts to be fun! And that was more or less the case on this ride- hence the title for the post.

I miss Marlene! What does that have to do with anything? Because Marlene is not in camp right now. Were she in camp, she no doubt would have been on this ride. And that is important to the story why exactly? Because in true Western fashion, Marlene carries a gun. And I hear tell she's not afraid to use it on those found to be "wondering aimlessly" in the desert. And she has been known to shoot Don on more than one occasion for making it necessary to circle the wagons. Good thing for Don that the gun Marlene carries is a squirt gun. True Grit he gets wet every time he has to make the group "about face" but aside from getting a chill on a cool and windy day, "wet" in the desert does not last long and there are no long term results or scars from getting shot. I have never seen her gun, but it must be pretty big and for sure, according to local legend, her aim is without question at the marksman level.

So on this ride we first visited Yuma Mine (as it is shown of the gps) although Don also refers to it as Fiddler's Mine. There wasn't much material available to find out about it but certainly there must have been copper in that mine judging from the Chrysocolla veins (low grade copper ore on the edge and oxidation zone of copper ore deposits and a gorgeous blue mineral often mistaken for turquoise) that were still readily visible outside the closed off portion of the mine. And signs posted indicated there was still activity at the mine although on this day there was none.

Then we poked and prodded our way around the hills and eventually came across probably another half dozen or so old mines- each with its own points of interest. There were many active claims posted in the area and I'd bet you rags to riches there was gold coming out of some of them- the signs were just that strong. I brought a few small baggies of sand from the wash where we stopped for lunch to "test" for small particles of gold, which I haven't gotten around to doing yet. I figure that is the best possible way to recycle plastic sandwich bags ever!

That's Don in the orange hat

After a few more "circle the wagons" and a lot more fun and great riding, we eventually headed back for camp. We stopped to snap a picture when we crossed the CAP Canal- a canal that carries irrigation water through the desert. The two Flattop mountains on the horizon pointed the way, and from our elevation before leaving the hills we could see some small communities and a ranch or two that confirmed the path home. Closer to camp, there are three water towers and some cell phone towers that lead you back home too. But who needs that? Just tuck in the dust behind Don and put some grit on your teeth and some dust in your eyes! Keep rolling. It's almost Beer-thirty!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Very Goldilocks Ride

All ATV rides are good rides- so long as you start and finish safe and sound. But I've noticed that sometimes I have some "drathers" while I'm out there. Yes. Drathers. As in, I drather go a bit slower. I drather go a bit faster. I drather it was a bit less technical. I drather it were more technical and challenging. I drather have dressed warmer, or I drather I wasn't so hot. I drather stop and take a photo. I drather stop now for the day. I drather keep right on riding. Or I drather stop for a minute and "see a man about a race horse."

So as drathers go, this ride was truly the Goldilocks ride: Not too fast. Not too slow. Not too tough. Not too soft. Not too hot. Not too cold. Nope. This ride was JUSSSSSST right! And not just because the conditions of the ride were so great- they were- but even more because we were able to incorporate so many excellent points of interest along the way.

The ride from the campground - I think it was probably 5 or 6 miles to start out - climaxed in a downhill thrill that was pretty challenging and involed a long and steep downhill run over large and loose boulders. This served as a perfect warm up, and the loop that we would eventually make during our tour essentially began and ended at this point.

First we ventured up and to the dead end of a canyon wash that was amazingly scenic. We did just a bit of hiking up the "dry waterfall" that essentially creates a point beyond which it would not be possible to ride. There were plenty of signs that prospectors had worked on both large and small scales in the canyon, both recently and going back quite a period of time. There are areas that have been mined all over the hills here near Quartzsite and that is part of the thrill of exploring the area. As the ad says: exploring with friends that have been there and done that? Priceless!

It wasn't too much longer before we stopped off to visit the Welcome Center. This is not a stop for maps and brochures; it is the term for a place of endearment where an old stone cabin stands among the ruins of the old Apache Mine, which is also a new claim posted by the GPAA. A sign posted at the so-called Welcome Center is posted below. People leave all kinds of intriguing items at the Center, so it's always worth a visit to see what's new.

Then a challenging section of the trip designed to transport us over the mountain to Dripping Springs. At the bottom of a vast canyon valley, a tiny spring created a riparian buffer zone, where we found a lot of bird life, tiny ground squirrels (who were clearly disposed to share our lunch) and some beautiful flowers we had not come across previously. It was one of the prettiest spots I think I have ever come across out in the desert- and that's saying something!

Next we found a geocache at a desert pet cemetery called "They Were Loved." Lynn and Don, our official geocachers, logged the find for later downloading, removed the selected item from the treasure trove and replaced it with a contribution of their own. At least that is my understanding of the process.

A bit later we raced down a BIG wash, playing in the deep and loose gravel and sand until we came to a limestone outcropping that had some petroglyphs and an in-rock equivalent of what we know from Honduras and Native American sites as "piedras." In Honduras, more specifically "piedra de mais" or stone used to grind corn grain." We have only ever seen them as a stone roller and a stone plate or bowl- but these piedras, clearly used for the same purpose, had been long-time ground right into the massive body of rock beside the wash. How hard someone must have worked to process the grains that caused such deep impressions in the rock...and also in my mind now that I have seen them.

Our final stop along our route was below the giant "Q." The Q is painted on the mountain top that overlooks Quartzsite. You would see it clearly from any plane flying over...and you would see it plainly driving by town on the highway, or even while walking around town. What you would not see from those locales, that we did see, was the remnants of the old Quartzsite mine that stands just below the Q. As we didn't know the original name of the mine, I think I'll just refer to it as the Q mine. It was most impressive, looming large over the town that stands composed of tents and RV's and bringing the desert back to life as though for the next round of the gold rush.

From here, it was about 15 miles as the crow flies back to our Brenda home base. Ride, Goldilocks, ride!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Riding For Geodes

Attention: Rock-hounds! No heavy trail riding today. No camping. No dry-washing for gold or silver today either. Nope. Today we set off with a small group of riders organized by our campground (Desert Gold) in the Brenda/Salome area of Arizona. The mission; find a geode. If you wish to learn more about geodes, I found a real good link for you to check out and you can see it by CLICKING HERE. But for general discussion sake, a geode is a roughly round shaped rock that at some point in time was a bubble in molten lava. As the bubble cooled, crystals formed inside the bubble. And just like a bubble, the inside of the geode is essentially hollow except for the crystals that have formed on the inside wall of the bubble. The inside of the geode is hidden from the eye of the collector or prospector. They can be the size of a golf ball, a baseball, a soft ball, or they can reach the size of giant boulders. To find out what's inside, you must either break the geode with a geology pick or cut it with a rock saw. Some are nothing much. Some are pretty. Some are amazing. Today, most of the ones I found had quartz crystals in them. Amethyst crystals are the most sought after specimens and I couldn't come up with any that had amethyst on this outing. Below is a picture of a few that I brought back to camp to be photographed up close. The four pieces in the lower left section of the picture are geodes that I have not yet opened. I wanted to see if I could access a rock saw to get a clean cut and see how that would work out.

And then here is the best picture I was able to get of the crystals inside the geode:

In case you haven't already figured this out, the deserts of the south west are a great place to look for geodes. I dug a hole on top of a small desert mound where geodes have been found many times before- to the point where they call this ride "the geode mine"- although it is not a mine at all, just a good patch of dirt where your odds of finding a geode are pretty good. I poked around for quite a while and then happened upon a spot where the hole I was digging produced most of the geode specimens shown in the picture above.

It was another new experience in the desert. I was happy digging in the dirt, like I always am. I was also happy I wore my long johns as the sun was out but the air was crisp and cold. What follows is a slide show of our day in search of geodes....

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Visit From The Proctologist

Not MY Proctologist! You think I'm ever gonna write about that? Well, maybe, but certainly not here and not now! No, I'm talking about the coach's proctologist. The guy who comes out to your site with specialized equipment made to clean out your black and gray holding tanks and also your water heater tank if you are so equipped. A service that eliminates the plaguing problem of holding tank sensors that insist your tank is full or nearly full even though you know darn well you just emptied it 12 minutes ago.

Steve Korsvall and his son Lars, The RV Proctologist out of Quartzsite, Arizona, showed up right on time for a 10 AM appointment to "git 'er done." When was the last time your doctor showed up on time? As with all good medical meetings, we discussed the "problem," diagnosed the malady, and set out on a course of action to remedy the situation. Despite having heard to the contrary that proctological exams are uncomfortable and painful, this one turned out to be neither. And I hasten to add that as medical treatments go, this one was, relatively speaking, also very affordable. When the doctors finished their work, the "problem" was gone. That is my kind of medical results!