And the road goes on forever...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year Folks!

Ah, as 2011 comes to a close, we breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over. Another lost year of life for the most part, but at least I accomplished getting my business off the ground and it is thriving. It continues to keep me about as busy as I care to be at my age since it is so very demanding physically, especially on my bad back. 

The good news as we face the incoming New Year is that Marc got called to do a real job finally for a contractor who specializes in building or remodeling restaurants. Marc leaves tomorrow with the little RV for a three week stint at helping to remodel a Chili’s restaurant in north Phoenix, with another one in Mesa to follow at a later date. From the looks of things, work for this contractor could be intermittent and short term since the restaurant remodels are on an extremely strict deadline with heavy penalties to the contractor if the deadlines aren’t met. Since restaurants also must remain open for business that means Marc will work a graveyard schedule, keeping him up all night and sleeping all day. He sure doesn’t look forward to that. Other locations the contractor is bidding on include the San Francisco Bay Area, so there is the potential for Marc to become a road warrior if this works out. Given my business I won’t have the liberty of joining him, so we once again would be back to living separately, which totally sucks. 

But today I’ll concentrate on the bright beginning to the New Year, which is that for three blissful weeks Marc will have a real paycheck. We are thankful for that after so many years of unemployment. We hope you all have a bright beginning to your new year and that it brings peace, good health, and all that you wish for.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mittry Lake Wildlife Area

The autumnal color tones defy the date, December 23, as we arrive via a winding dirt road to a more-or-less partially hidden free campsite by Mittry Lake; a part of the Colorado estuary system just twenty miles from home. We are in one of the last available spots before the road diverges from the lakeshore although we are not exactly sitting on the lake, but above it and separated by a wide expanse of elephant grass and reeds; the view sublime. The reeds rustle and dance in the day’s wind; wind which makes it cool to be outside so we settle in and relax in our comfy camp trailer.
Marc gets up sometime during the night to start our small propane catalytic heater as the forecast was for temps as low as 38 but once the sun is up and with the winds much calmer; it feels fine out in my layered clothing for another hike. Right across the dirt road is a seeming canal which widens to pond stature as we meander along the shoreline road. We spy what we think are carp in the very clear water, and an egret looking to feed. We veer off on a mountainside rocky trail which abruptly dead ends at an area some miner has dug out of the hillside. The view from here is truly spectacular as we can look across Mittry to the habitation of the Yuma Proving Grounds base and far off RVs gathered together at Senator Wash, a BLM long term area.
The day passes languidly into Christmas Eve dinner and a long night, and Christmas dawns clear and serene. It is a joy just to sit outside in the low-rising sun and watch the birdlife and tranquil water under azure skies. We have a big breakfast but leave room for our special lunch—Carne Asada, which has been marinating in the fridge for two days. Marc throws it on the BBQ, where it becomes our main Christmas Day feast. Soon enough, the weekend ends and we must head for home.
Mittry Lake is eye candy at this time of year with golden hued beauty in all the surrounding vegetation and seemingly hundred mile views of the distant barren hills. However, unless one is fishing, it does lack in things to do besides taking it easy and also the dirt road has quite a lot of traffic going by so the privacy factor is not what we are normally used to when boondocking. This has probably been a onetime camp spot for us.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Silent Bliss; Tumco Revisited

Up the rocky inclined dirt road past Tumco Mine, we find a spot off to ourselves tucked against quartz striated rock mountains. Their barrenness is otherworldly as they passively protect our presence for our most recent three day camping trip. We’re in the silence of the desert wildness where just about the only thing we’ll hear for two days and nights is the wind and each other.
This area is public BLM land so open to camping for fourteen day stretches free of charge but this blustery windy day, a Friday afternoon after we’ve finished in Algodones, we find ourselves the only ones here. Quite a change from the groups gathered over Thanksgiving when we were last in the area.
We sleep in on Saturday, a guilty pleasure I never get to indulge in, but finally the cats, so long overdue on feeding time, get so insistent they won’t wait a moment longer for their breakfasts. We’re doing a trial run without using the generator and our standby coffeepot is a range-top percolator which takes quite awhile to come to a boil. Once we finish with our own breakfasts we set off to explore some of this early mining country on foot. The dirt roads fork out in all directions so we head deeper into the cut into the mountains, the left fork, riddled with excavations and shafts from gold mining.
The hiking is pleasant, gradually gaining elevation but petering out on a left fork we take at a cliff-hugging trail which ascends to an obvious mine. Marc is not in hiking shoes and the rocky climb gets a little too serious for his footwear so we turn back. Far off on the valley floor with the telephoto on my camera I can see the Imperial Sand Dunes light and shimmering.
After a hearty BLT on chibata sandwich for lunch, we decide to tackle more hiking; the back route into the Tumco Mine area, which we feel is the right road fork. On my previous visit I only scratched the surface of the contained area which is fenced off, and doesn’t allow vehicle passage. The rest of these roads are numbered for off-road use, although in our entire weekend we were only passed by two ATVers. 

By now, the clouds have passed and the wind has died somewhat so we enjoy warm enough hiking in sunshine until late in the afternoon when clouds once again bag up the sky. I am overjoyed to come across a much more substantial ruin than in my first visit but disappointed to see every lime plaster inch left intact on the brick walls covered in graffiti. Why do people feel the need to deface an antiquity in such a manner? Are the vast majority of us so brain dead that it escapes us that this is something that can never be brought back once defaced?
Following Marc along the northern edge skirting the mountains, we pass through a large section of tall tailings now eroded into mini-canyons, as we follow a snaking wash farther east. We come across some huge timbers—probably washed-out foundation struts for more settlement ponds up ahead. The power of storms and rushing water to send them here must be very substantial. No wonder they say to stay out of desert washes during rainstorms.
We finally make it to a very deep wash which halts our progress and before us also lies the deeply gouged hole which used to be just another mountain. It’s obvious this mining was done with equipment, not the pick and shovel of the early times. Our feet say we’ve come far enough for today although there is one last mini-hill I wish to climb and photograph ruins before heading back. It sits behind us though so is convenient for our route back. Here the ruins appear as something out of Beirut during war time, as we marvel just what this area must have been. The tabletop hill contains lots of foundations, pillars and obvious cement abutments which speak of some sort of major processing plant.
Evening finds us gathered around a fire pit conveniently built by some other camper but the ensuing cold and wind soon drives us inside for dinner. Marc has movies we watch on his computer so we settle in and watch one in our new King size bed with the cats, and drift off into a night filled with complete silence.

Sunday has a lazy start which gives Marc the chance to attempt using his metal detector in the wash. Visions of gold nuggets glisten in his thoughts but his equipment list is woefully lacking in sifting apparatus for the sand. Oh well, we intend to come back to this blissful spot and I’m sure he’ll be better prepared next time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volunteer Extraordinaire

Things have been slow for Marc lately so he stepped graciously to the plate when asked for help beyond the ordinary by Helping Hands. Every year in December and again in February, Helping Hands throws the mother of all yard sales—proceeds from which are their main source of funding. Helping Hands provides many services to seniors in the Foothills area, and does so without charge to the senior. I often volunteer as I have time, by doing medical transport, taking those who can no longer drive, into town for doctor’s appointments. I’ve even taken those with impaired eyesight grocery shopping on occasion. We obviously get no pay for this, or any fuel stipend either, but we do get the satisfaction of knowing that we make a huge difference in the lives of the elderly in our neighborhood.

The setup for the giant yard sale starts about nine days in advance of the sale date, with the first step being erection of all the chain link fencing surrounding the sale area, then transporting and set up of all manner of tables and clothing racks. Following this comes the unloading of many sea containers full of literally tons of donated goods. This gets transported to the site via small U Haul trucks and even the Marines help out. Marc spent the better part of three days engaged in this end of it before the unpacking even began.

Once unpacking begins, the ranks of volunteers swell (about 150 come out to get the job done in four days) as the categories of sale items to be unpacked and priced is mind-boggling. If you can think of it, it is probably somewhere in all that stuff and will be for sale! I had room in my schedule to donate one and a half days to unpacking and hanging woman’s clothing but Marc truly went above and beyond by not only devoting an entire week of full days, but he also hauled our little fifth wheel to the site, where he stayed all night playing night watchman as well.

Beyond the satisfaction of helping such a great organization, the biggest perk for the volunteers at the sale is the chance to “shop” daily (ahead of the public opening) for every day volunteered. The volunteers get the best of the bargains, the most unique, the newest, the most pristine of the merchandise and all at bargain basement pricing that is a hallmark of this giant sale. We scored on so many nice items, including an outdoor patio set consisting of a metal settee and two large rocking chairs for $36, several Griswold cast iron frying pans for $3/each and a Henckel knife set for $3 which retails for close to $150. Clothing is beyond belief, some of it brand new, running about 25/cents an item. And fun? Yeah, we’ve got lots of that as well!

The following pictures show the opening to the public, which begins bright and early on a Friday with the sale continuing Saturday. By Saturday pricing is knocked down to half, so even though the numbers are slightly less, both days draw huge crowds and at the end very little is left for volunteers to pack up. If you’re in the area and need something, be sure and come out and support such a wonderful organization. The next sale date is February 17th and 18th. Of course, if you want first dibs on merchandise, do your part, and volunteer!