Thursday, March 31, 2016


It has taken me three years to be in the right place at the right time to get photos of ocotillos in bloom. Tah-dah!

(I didn't know they were also called coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob's staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus.)

Good morning, people

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Population: 1

I was very surprised as I drove along Darby Well Road south of Ajo, Arizona. The last time I was here there were dozens of boondockers. Today? Zero. Just me. Excellent. I had my pick of camping spots. I chose a place tucked up against the hills, next to a wash, among cacti and mesquite, near where Scenic Loop Road slips into a narrow canyon.

It's quiet, the ocotillos are in full bloom, and there's a strong cell signal. Sweet.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Do re me fa so la te do

If you ever pass through Phoenix and have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend the Musical Instrument Museum. There are instruments from all over the world. Some are familiar, some are very alien. Some look like they can't possibly work, or that you need several hands, feet and mouths to play them. You get a headset that synchs to various videos so you can hear what the instruments sound like.

There was so much to see, so rather than load this post down with photos, I'll show a couple of the odder instruments.

Above is what you get when you cross a violin with a trumpet. I guess someone thought the world needed a louder violin. Below is the evil spawn of a trumpet and a player piano. You blow and crank, which sounds a bit obscene.

I failed at several musical instruments, yet my mother insisted I perform anyway. Because humiliation is good for you, right? So I totally understand that someone might want to keep his identity a secret while playing. I think this guy is struggling through Mary Had a Little Lamb.


As I've written before, weather plays a large part in my travel decisions. The weather in the Sedona/Cottonwood area had been perfect the past week. Daytime temperatures in the 70s with high 40s at night. But a front was on the way that would bring a ten degree drop in temperatures. And possibly some rain. Boo-hoo, I didn't want to do that, even for only a day or two. Besides, my feet were starting to itch.

So after the Rolling Steel Tent was serviced I took off for lower elevations. I'm at Buckeye Hills Regional Park again. It's the fifth time since autumn. It's becoming a habit. Free, easy to get to, near stores, etc. I'm still trying to figure out where to go from here. (Ain't that one of Life's Big Questions?) Somewhere with good weather, of course.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Service bay watch

It was oil change and tire rotation time again. Reese's Tire and Automotive had been recommended by Cottonwood locals, so I set up an appointment. They were quick and the price was surprisingly low. Even better, they have a shaded patio waiting area with very comfortable chairs. The perfect thing when the weather is good. It sure beats the typical tire dealer indoor waiting room that smells of rubber.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Gonna catch the next train goin', gonna leave my blues behind

When Lou suggested a train ride, I was probably less enthusiastic than he'd hoped. "Well, I've done something like that before. My girlfriend and I rode the Skunk Train from Ft. Bragg to Willits and back. It was fun for the first ten minutes or so. But let me think about it."

I did think about it and decided, sure, let's do it.

The Verde Canyon Railroad runs from Clarkdale, Arizona (near Cottonwood) along the Verde River to Perkinsville. There are standard rail cars (each with a bar) and open observation cars where most people spend the trip when the weather's good, like it was today.

I hadn't known Verde Canyon existed, so I didn't know what to expect. Would it be dramatic and scenic, or just one of those low spots between hills pretending to be a canyon. I wasn't very encouraged as we started off. But then, oh yeah, it became a real canyon with cliffs, a tunnel and everything.

It's a four-hour round trip but I never got bored. Red rock formations, cottonwoods leafed out in bright green, the river making me wish I had an inner tube... Parts of it reminded me of the train at Disneyland. Only this was real. I'm glad I went. I could have been happier, though, without the train songs over the PA. The scenery was entertainment enough.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ruins, then lunch

Lou and I went to the Toozigoot National Monument near Clarkdale, Arizona. Rather than a cliff dwelling, it was built atop a hill in the Verde Valley. That left bottomland available for agriculture.

The Verde River runs nearby, creating a nice, shady riparian area. Once again, Lou regretted selling his kayak. I'd like to go back just to sit and enjoy the place.

Afterward, Lou was able to put aside memories of his kayak by enjoying a chile relleno at Juanitas in Cottonwood. He claims they're the second best he's ever had. I had sopes.

Gotta have some greens with my meal

Friday, March 25, 2016

Phase three "tiny house"

Hiking in Boynton Canyon

The weather was perfect for some hiking among the Red Rocks of Sedona rather than just gazing at them from our campsite. Finding a parking spot at a trail head was a bit of a challenge, though, it being Spring Break and all that.

It was a pleasant change to be among the trees with cliffs above. The trails went on for miles and climbed almost 2,000 feet, but I didn't go that far, being the old fart that I am. Three miles were enough.

A nice spot to sit a spell

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Oops, I did it again

This past summer I built a step to replace the one I'd driven off without, which was a replacement for the one I'd backed over. Well...

I dunno. Maybe I should get one that folds out from the vehicle. The higher cost, the trouble finding one designed to fit Chevy vans and the trouble to install it might be worth it.

Or I could get a lackey to kneel by the Rolling Steel Tent when needed. Hey, it worked for monarchs in the olden days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fish watching

Lou is a fly fisherman and I'm up for new experiences, so we went to the Page Springs Hatchery run buy the Arizona Game & Fish Department. The visitor center was closed for remodeling, so we went on the self-guided tour (a.k.a. wandering around) and followed the wildlife viewing trail.

Some of the dozen or more tanks where rainbows and brownies are raised to catchable size

These trout in an outdoor feeding/viewing pond are about the size of my forearm

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fun with filters

Hmmmm, what if I used Photoshop filters to make some of my photos look like paintings?

Ya work with what ya got

Seen on Facebook

Cottonwood Recreation Center

The previous times I've been in Cottonwood, Arizona, I've showered at the Old Town Mission. Free, with towels and soap. But the days and hours they're open didn't always mesh with my plans. Whadda ya want for nothin', right?

This time I tried the Cottonwood Recreation Center. Open every day with convenient hours. Five dollars gets you a senior citizen day pass. So if you want to work out or swim, you can do that too. You need to supply your own towels and a lock for the locker.

The showers are individual stalls with changing/drying vestibules instead of the communal multiple-nozzles-on-a-pole or rows-of-nozzles-on-a-wall type showers found in some gyms. The nozzle in my shower didn't adjust for angle or spray pattern. It took a long time for the hot water to arrive, and even then it wasn't very warm. Water pressure was adequate. The air in the locker room was either over-cooled or under-heated the day I was there, so stepping out of the shower was, woo, brisk. But there was sufficient ventilation to keep the place from steaming up, unlike at the Old Town Mission.

The rec center is next to the library and down the street from the post office, which makes it handy during runs to town from your boondocking site. And five ducks is a pretty good deal.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sedona site hunting

Yesterday, Lou and I grabbed a camping spot off Forest Service Road 525 between Cottonwood and Sedona. Nothing fancy except for the radio controlled airplane center across the road. Even though Lou is interested in RC planes (and boats), the site was just a temporary spot, a landing strip, if you will. Nyuk-nyuk.

This morning we cruised the area looking for a better spot. The ones we had in mind from our time here in October were already occupied. Even spots we weren't particularly interested in were taken. Spring break, Easter holiday and good weather brought out the crowds. We thought we might have to settle for the spot by the RC airplane facility, but I said, "Let me check if this other spot I know is available."

It was.

Up a hill with a great view of the red rocks Sedona is famous for. The road up the hill is a rocky, lumpy mess, but it's short. And it keeps large rigs away. It's near the highway and its noise, but it's a small price to pay.

It's a nice place. I imagine we'll be here a while, though there's talk of Grand Canyon. Hmmmm...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lou contemplates the sunset

Straight lines are overrated

Why, yes, I did just set up camp in Congress a couple of days ago, but things change. The heat at Craggy Wash finally chased Lou up to Sedona/Cottonwood, so I joined him there. I could've taken several routes, but I decided to drive the leg of Highway 89A from Prescott Valley, over the Black Hills Range and through Jerome. That was the only section of 89A I hadn't traveled before.

The road builders were nice enough to make a couple of spots where people can pull off the road and enjoy the view between the mountains, across the Verde Valley, all the way to the red and white escarpment at Sedona. With a slightly different angle I probably could've seen all the way to Humphrey's Peak in Flagstaff.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Your representative in Congress

A sheriff's deputy ran me out of the campsite on Vulture Peak Road, near Wickenburg for not having a State Trust Land recreation permit. And Arizona doesn't make it convenient to get one. They only do it by mail, not online. (Rolling eyes, shaking head, muttering...)

So I moved to BLM land on Ghost Town Road, in Congress, about 35 miles away. The elevation is higher, therefore slightly cooler. And not needing to worry about getting busted is also cool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wardrobe seesaw

I was in shorts and t-shirt yesterday afternoon when it was in the 80s. I went to sleep in just my underwear with the blanket over only my legs.

When I woke up at 3:17 it was 46 degrees in the Rolling Steel Tent. Brrrr. So I put on pajama bottoms and a long-sleeved tee and burrowed under the duvet.

When I got up after sunrise, it was still only 53 degrees in the van. I swapped the pajamas for jeans.

Now it's afternoon. The temperature is in the 80s and I'm in shorts again. Ah, the joys of spring (minus four days).