February 23, 2003
: I was at work recently when someone asked me, “When are you
going to take another trip?”
I did a
double take. “Work?” I said. “What am I doing working?” And
I immediately packed up and headed for
very early, 6 a.m.
today, with reservations already arranged at Needles, close to 400
miles away. My preferred daily mileage is closer to 250, but this is
a relatively short trip timewise, and I don’t want to spend much
time getting where I am going.
and mother go to
every year to escape the harsh winters of central
California, and I am going there to spend about ten days with them. Then I
will head for Parker AZ, on the
Colorado River, for a bluegrass festival, and be back in
about March 11.
most of my trips, there were negative events at or near the start
– I received a notice to report for jury duty March 10. The
festival ends March 9, and I have paid the non-refundable camping
and festival fee. I did not want to leave Parker at 6 p.m. March 9
and try to be in the Fresno County Courthouse at 9 the next morning,
so I returned the notice requesting a delay till July. The notice
said that most requests are granted, and they will only contact me
if it is not; and of course I got out of town before they could call
me to say “no way.”
has taken me south on California 99 to
Bakersfield, east on
Barstow, and east to Needles on US 40, which has replaced most of historic
was quite a bit of fog in southern
counties, but otherwise the weather was sunny. It was about 65 here, and
there are a lot of clouds, with a chance of rain. The temperature
was 70 degrees where I had lunch, a rest stop about 40 miles east of
on US 40.
first I didn’t think there was much to say about the scenery, but
that’s because I’ve driven through these areas so much. Actually
in the San Joaquin Valley the almond trees are still in bloom, but
have dropped enough petals that it looks like there is a dusting of
snow under each row of trees. The foothills east of
are green and beautiful, with big valley oaks in the lower areas,
and shrubs, live oaks and blue oaks higher up.
Mountain, south of 58, and the mountains around Tehachapi, which is
at 4,000 feet, still have patches of real snow.
the desert is pretty drab, although I like the Joshua trees and the
treeless, rocky mountains in the distance along
58. There is quite a bit of grass getting started in the desert near
staying in the KOA on the western edge of town, right on the
original Route 66 (you can tell because the camp store sells 57
different Route 66 souvenir items).
24, 2003: I got another early start, 6:45 a.m., and headed down
US 95 from Needles to Blythe. I wanted to be sure to get through
Phoenix before the evening traffic rush, and in fact I made it to
Mesa about 2:30. The weather was partly cloudy all day, but
rain-free. The next day would be a different story.
drive down 95 goes through some hills with jagged rock formations,
plus lots of desert terrain, with cholla and some other cacti.
Eventually the road started following close by the Colorado River
into Blythe. Then it was east on I-10, about 175 miles to my
a mile of entering
Arizona, you begin to see saguaro cactus (I believe they are native only to
Mexico). You may go miles without seeing one, then have lots on both sides
of the road. However, the thickest saguaro “
forests” are east of the Phoenix-Metro area, on the highway to
and up the Apache Trail into the
got to the park where my parents stay, I got the trailer set up,
rested a while, then walked over to their mobile home, one row away.
We went out for a nice dinner, and I got caught up on the news in the
25, 2003: It started raining during the night and kept it up
into the morning. It came down hard several times for a while, but
stopped long enough for me to take my morning walk, then go to Dad
and Mother’s after breakfast. Right now, 1:10
mountain time, the rain has stopped for several hours, but there are
dark clouds and it looks like it could start again any time.
Mother had some errands to run, so I stayed around the trailer
reading. In the evening we went out to a nice Mexican restaurant.
26, 2003: The Valley of the Sun is very soggy these days – it
rained off and on all day yesterday, and was raining hard when I
went to bed. I went for my morning walk without getting rained on
(unlike yesterday), but a sprinkle started just as I got back to the
a little more rain today, but not much. However, it always looked
like it might rain. We went to lunch at the local senior center –
a good lasagna. Didn’t do much the rest of the day.
27, 2003: This report is getting repetitious and dull; sorry
about that. I would love to have nice weather and be doing
something. It rained during the night, and may rain again today;
it’s cloudy right now at 10:30, with dark clouds in the north, and
pretty cool and breezy. If we have a day when no rain is
threatening, I will go out walking in the desert, but today is not
the day. I sat around reading the paper and drinking fortified
1, 2003: Very soon now I am in danger of getting REALLY PISSED
OFF about the weather. We have had rain every day since I’ve been
here, and today’s forecast is the usual “possible
thunderstorms.” We managed to get through the daylight hours
yesterday without rain, but there may have been rain here in Mesa;
we were gone most of the time. If the paper shows a day in the
future without rain
(“partly cloudy”), before that day actually arrives, the outlook
is changed to rain.
a good time yesterday; went to my mother’s cousin’s house in
(Roy & Jeanette Whittekindt). Also present were another cousin who
lives in Surprise, AZ, Gloria Samuelson and her daughter Margaret Meister. We had a good dinner and a nice visit. Like my parents, all these
people grew up in the snows of Ohio; Roy and Jeanette spent their
working years in the snows of Illinois and have lived here about ten
years; Margaret and Gloria lived in the snows of Omaha and have been
here five years. They came here to visit relatives and said “the
heck with snow,” and here they still are.
is mostly sunny so far (although the forecast is “possible thunder
showers”). I went to get propane and gasoline this morning, then
has a display of sculptures on the downtown main street, and we may
go look at that later this afternoon (if we beat the showers).
way home yesterday we were treated to a view of some beautiful
snow-covered mountains to the northeast (probably the
Peaks). There has been a lot of snow to the north in this series of
storms. One key reservoir,
Salt River, went from 10% of capacity to 15% with the
precipitation from this storm.
have not been in the
area for ten or twenty years or more, it has grown! It is a very
spread-out metro area. By way of perspective, I read something once
about the late senator Barry Goldwater. When he was born in the
mountains north of
in about 1910, the entire valley had about 10,000 residents. Now
there are several million.
Mesa, and on our trip yesterday we traveled most of the way on freeways,
over 50 miles one way, going through
Phoenix, and into
Glendale. Sun City,
Peoria, Gilbert, Tempe,
Chandler, Apache Junction, Goodyear, Avondale and several cities I am
forgetting are all part of the overall metro area.
are good freeways to get you through and around the cities, but
there was still some of the usual metro area slowdown yesterday, and
I hear that traffic comes to a halt every morning on the
Superstition Freeway (US
rain has caused some street flooding, but in most places the
drainage is good. As in Fresno, when a lot of rain falls quickly, it
can back up. In the mountains around
Lake, there are some people cut off from their way out due to a creek
that is normally easy to drive across (no bridge).
still has somewhat of an “old west” attitude, with a lot of
independent and “leave me alone” type people. However, the
Phoenix area is probably as cosmopolitan as
state does like to take an independent path – it does not go on
daylight savings time, and was the last state to approve the Martin
Luther King holiday (losing its first bid for the super bowl because
of this stance).
are hundreds of restaurants, and I have eaten at a dozen or so, with
a wide range in price and quality. One of my favorites is Waldo’s
Mesa, which has great barbecue and tons of attitude. An example: A
poster on the wall reads “I didn’t fight my way to the top of
the food chain to be a vegetarian!”
has an image as a desert area, in fact there is a lot of variety in
the terrain – the north rim of the
is close to 8,000 feet and has tons of snow, and even in the southern
half of the state, near
Tucson, there are some rugged mountains. However, there is indeed a
desert, some of it kind of desolate, and other parts marked by a
wide array of cactus and other plants. There’s also lots of wild
life, but you don’t see much, except for the coyotes that welcome
people moving into their territory by eating their pets. (Which
reminds me, why didn’t I bring those rotten little dogs that live
next door to me down here with me?)
state and the cities (and probably the counties) are having the same
kind of budget problems we are having in California; reading the
news about state and local budgets here is almost exactly the same
as reading them at home – staff layoffs and cuts in service are
like the San Joaquin
Valley, air quality is becoming an issue (this is a big valley filled with
people, freeways and agriculture, surrounded by mountains). It’s
not as bad as Fresno yet, and editorials are asking, “How much
worse does it have to get before we act.” Maybe they could learn a
lesson from our procrastination.
are big news too – a couple of years ago the state hired a company
to dispose of meth ingredients and other toxic items seized in drug
busts. Recently they found out the company was selling the
ingredients to a big drug cartel, and some employees had set up
their own meth labs.
in the 2000 census was 1.3 million, making it the sixth largest city
United States. Eight cities in the metro area have a population of 100,000 or
is close to half a million.
can brag about is that they have had two consecutive governors who
have not been
indicted for criminal activities. Before these two, the previous
pair were both charged for criminal acts prior to their election as
governor. Of course, the current incumbent has been office only a
short time, but SHE’s a Democrat, so there is hope for another
crime-free four years.
area is probably the worst place in the country to be a lawn mower
salesman. Many of the yards (and virtually all in newer
use colored rock and drought resistant native plants for landscaping.
could learn something here.
freeway designs in cities are also worthy of emulation – the
concrete sound barriers and freeway structure are often colored
(sandstone red or beige), and feature Indian-inspired graphic
designs and pictures of native animals. The approach ramps are long
enough for a vehicle to get up to highway speed before having to
2, 2003: Today was the kind of day you go to Arizona for.
Yesterday’s forecast for today was “partly cloudy,” but of
course today’s outlook for today was “possible thunder
showers.” Even so, I set out on the Apache Trail (Arizona Highway
88), northeast from Apache Junction, and turned off on a dirt road
that goes to two trailheads. I went to the farthest one, two and a
half miles from the highway, paid $4, and started down a trail into
are all the usual cactus varieties (prickly pear, saguaro, hedgehog,
pincushion and cholla), as well as many bushes and plants (palo
verde, creosote bush and mesquite are the most common), plus a very
few flowers. Most of the area I have walked in before is pretty
open, and you can go cross country between cactus and bushes with no
trouble. This area is apparently much wetter, a bit higher and
probably cooler. The bushes, cactus and other plants are too thick
to walk off the trail very much.
rock is very porous, and there are a lot of places where water seeps
out of the rock and collects in small streams. The trail criss-crossed one substantial stream that had some large pools.
There are some nice rock cliffs, and in general the trail goes
through a small canyon into the mountains.
course, this stream will dry up when the rains end, and “cool”
and “wet” are relative terms in the
Desert. A July hike would be very uncomfortable.
were some dark clouds nearby, but most of the time it was warm
enough to get by with just a T-shirt. There were a few drops of rain
when I was hiking. I could hear them hitting my hat, and see the
drops hitting the many puddles along the trail, but only felt three
or four drops on my skin.
got back to the parking lot, I had a snack, then walked up a hill
nearby. From the top there was a good view of the
Peaks, a snow-covered mountain beyond
on the Salt River.
kneeling down to photograph a pincushion cactus when I noticed a
small round hole, about an inch in diameter. It had a little
“fence” of webbing around it, and when I looked down in it, I
saw something move. Soon a small tarantula came up to the top of the
hole. I started looking in other holes, and saw one other larger
tarantula, and a small spider in a large hole.
March 3, 2003
: Today was laundry day, and time to do some preliminary work for my
departure Wednesday – checking the air in the tires, and putting
away my extra lawn chairs. We had a late lunch/early dinner at
Coco’s, and just got back a little while ago, about 4:30.
March 5, 2003
: Yesterday we went to lunch at the senior center, eliminating the
need for another full meal in the evening, then went to the Mesa
of the Southwest. This is an excellent facility, with exhibits
covering the area from prehistoric to modern times. There is an
extensive dinosaur exhibit, a model railroad display, and much more
– photos from the Arizona Highways magazine collection,
information on the “old west” period, Indians, and a section on
movies made in Arizona. We didn’t get to see everything, and
another visit would be well worthwhile.
got hitched up and left about 9, heading for Parker AZ and a new
bluegrass festival. The promotional announcements for this event
have stressed the importance of supporting it so it can be scheduled
again next year, and all evidence is that it will be a big success.
There are well over 100 RV’s here tonight, at the LaPaz County Park
on the Colorado River, and they have been arriving since Monday.
The festival starts Friday morning, so there is another day for
early arrival, and no doubt many will arrive on Friday, plus the
single day visitors on Saturday.
route was west on
202 (an urban loop freeway), then Interstate 10 to Quartzite, and north on
area is very nice, with red and tan sandstone hills above us, and
the river nearby. The concert area overlooks the river. Also the
weather is cooperating so far. It was raining when I left
Mesa, but stopped before I got past
Phoenix, and has been sunny all the rest of the day.
6, 2003: After breakfast today I went up Highway 95 to Parker
Dam, where I got gas and a few groceries, and drove across the dam
and back. On the way I stopped and walked up a wash in the hills
south of the highway (opposite the river). It was easy walking, with
lots of palo verde, mesquite and creosote bush, and cholla and
barrel cactus. The first part of the wash was pretty level, then it
started climbing slightly, but was still easy going. I probably went
up a quarter to a half mile, and could have kept going. Where I
turned back the canyon was getting pretty narrow, but was still
passable at least to the next bend.
14, 2003: As usual, there was no modem connection at the
Bluegrass Festival, so no report could be sent after the first one.
Also as usual, it’s hard to get the final entry done after I get
home and find piles of mail, tall grass to be mowed, and lots of
other stuff piled up.
festival was a lot of fun, with several groups I have seen before,
and several that were new to me. There were about 4,000 people
attending, so it was a big success. It was the first festival in
this series, but definitely will not be the last. I saw and talked
with people I have met at other festivals, as well as new people,
and had a great time.
update: This was the first festival put on by Larry & Sandra
Baker (L&S Promotions), and they have since promoted festivals
every year in Parker AZ and Plymouth CA, all highly successful. In
2006 they added a one-day festival in Yuma. There are links below
for the ones I have attended.)
favorite never before seen band at the 2003 Parker festival was the
U.S. Navy Band, Country Current. The top level military service
bands have many, many talented musicians to choose from, so the
premiere groups are guaranteed to be outstanding, and Country
Current certainly meets that definition.
I had seen and enjoyed a number of times previously included Ron
Spears and Within Tradition, Lost Highway, Cherryholmes and the
Witcher Brothers. Also worthy of note was Doodoo Wah, a duo from
northern California who perform humorous originals. These include
some of the clever radio jingles they have written for local
sponsors in the Sonora CA area. They have a CD out which I purchased
recently and you can check
their stuff out here).
started home about
time) and drove all the way home, arriving about
It was a record distance for me, 456 miles, but it did not make
sense to stop early in the day at the half-way point, nor to pay $25
to spend the night in
Bakersfield, so I just kept going.
– a trip to the
area with my grandson to see a Sharks hockey game. There won’t be
an official report on that, but I can reveal that we plan to go to
and the redwoods, in addition to the game.
(Photos open in a new window)
Ron Spears & Within Tradition
Jere Cherryholmes & sound man Art
Dick by road to First Water
Tonto National Forest