Fun in the Desert, Agua Fria National Monument, Back to the Forest

Wow, didn’t realize it had been ten days since my last post! Time to catch up!

Yesterday was moving day, and we’re in a new location now, but first I’ll share some of what we’ve been up to for the past ten days at our camp on Bloody Basin Road BLM land near Mayer, Arizona.

First of all, we got some maintenance items taken care of. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we almost lost our sewer hose (a.k.a. the “stinky slinky”) when the homemade storage pipe came loose from the underside of the rig while at the dump station. Andy decided to replace the old one with some PVC pipe which should hold up better to the rigors of travel. It took a little ingenuity, but he got it done (as he always does).

Handy Andy installs PVC pipe to hold our stinky slinky under the RV.

I did quite a bit of geocaching while we were at the Bloody Basin camp. There is a person or persons who go by the handle Cactusart Kids who have placed hundreds of caches in the area. The ones I found were all in tins of different shapes and sizes, most had swag for trading, a few were pretty rusty, but in every case it was a fun hunt and not too hard to locate. I’m still pretty new to geocaching, so I appreciate the ones that don’t totally stump me. I did have to be extremely cautious, though, as it’s rattlesnake season, and digging around in the rocks can be a little iffy. I saw one live rattler in the middle of the road as I was walking back from a hunt, and another rattler was run over by a vehicle at the entrance to our campsite. Just a little something to add a “thrill” to the hunt (sorry, Mom!!).

My very first time to see a rattler in the wild, and fortunately it was in the middle of the road.

On Saturday, we drove through a good portion of the Agua Fria National Monument, which is just across the interstate from where we were camped. The Monument is comprised of 70,900 acres, including the 55,200-acre “Perry Mesa Archaeological District”, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It takes its name from the Agua Fria River which flows through the Monument, and features one of the most significant systems of prehistoric sites in the American Southwest.

Agua Fria river flowing by Horseshoe Ranch in Agua Fria National Monument

Our goal was to reach the Pueblo la Plata archaeological site, located about eight miles from the entrance to the Monument. That was probably the roughest eight miles that our little Tacoma pickup truck has ever traveled. Not only did we have to go up and down steep inclines, but the road got progressively more “primitive” the further we drove.

Epic view on Road 9269 in the Agua Fria National Monument.

When we finally reached the turn-off to the pueblo site, we decided to just park the truck and hike in. It was about a mile-and-a-half to the archaeological site across the top of a mesa, so it was a fairly flat hike. The pueblo site itself was less impressive than I had hoped, as it’s pretty much just piles of rocks that at one time made up the walls of the homes and other structures where people lived. Over time, the dirt and clay “mortar” has washed away, and now there’s a lot of vegetation growing around the stones, so it’s a little harder to see the outline of the structure. But it’s there, you just have to use your imagination a little bit.

Remains of Pueblo la Plata. They had a beautiful view!

And about 20 yards away is the rim of the canyon where Silver Creek flows by, which was their major source of water at the time. The view from the top of the canyon was really stunning, and worth the hike.

Andy on the edge of Silver Creek Canyon near the Pueblo la Plata

We made several trips to civilization while we were camped at Bloody Basin. I drove to Mayer one day to pick up our mail, which contained some unexpected good news–the dentist office in Yuma that we visited is refunding almost half of what we paid them for Andy’s crown and my filling. Our dental insurance paid more than they expected, so we got a nice chunk of change back. Hooray!! We also had a laundry and grocery shopping day in Prescott Valley, so we took advantage of the trip to have lunch at Chipotle. And on Sunday, we drove south to Anthem to pick up a package from Amazon at the Amazon locker in the Chase bank lobby (we love Amazon lockers!!), and stopped by Starbucks for some free wi-fi and a treat.

So, yesterday (Monday), we hit the fourteen day limit at that particular BLM campsite. As you might remember from our previous post, we have ordered a new mattress (HALLELUJAH!!) for the RV, and it’s scheduled for delivery to the Prescott Valley Fedex facility this Thursday, so we need to stay in the area. We were considering just staying put for a few more days as the BLM doesn’t actively track how long you stay in most of these boondocking spots. After we had breakfast, we got on the computer and started looking at spots where we might want to move to later in the week, all around the Prescott Valley area. Since we also needed to dump the tanks yesterday, we finally decided that since we had to move the RV to go to the dump, we might as well just relocate at the same time.

So we picked out a US Forest Service campground located between Prescott and Prescott Valley where they have eleven campsites that are first-come, first-serve. We decided to take a chance on there being a spot available at the Hilltop Campground, and if not, we would just cross that bridge later. All the reservation sites were gone, as we expected.

So we packed everything up and pulled out of camp around 11:00 AM yesterday. We stopped in Cordes Junction to dump the tanks and fill up on propane, gas, and fresh water, and then made the short 35-mile drive to our new campground. And sure enough, there was one campsite available that we were JUST able to squeeze our rig onto–and this is just another example of why we decided to keep the small RV for now instead of trading up to a larger one.

Our newest home in Hilltop Campground (USFS) near Prescott AZ

The campground does not provide hookups, but they do have vault toilets as well as drinking water available. Each site has a picnic table and a fire-ring, and the sites are asphalt pads. There’s a camp host on duty to keep things clean and orderly. The sites are $18/night, but with Andy’s America the Beautiful lifetime senior pass, which cost us $10, we get half off the camping fee, so we’re paying $9/night.

The elevation here is 5,682′, about 2,000 feet higher than where we were, so the vegetation and climate are very different. We’re surrounded by Ponderosa pine and hardwood trees, and the temperatures are about ten degrees cooler. The humidity is still low, and the trees offer protection from the wind, making it very pleasant to be outside. The one downside to the trees is that it makes it harder for our solar panels to charge the batteries. We may wind up depending more upon the generator for a few days. We’re supposed to get a little rain today, but otherwise the weather looks to be beautiful while we’re here.

So our plans for the rest of the week include picking up our new mattress, finding a place to dispose of the old one, doing some hiking and geocaching, visiting downtown Prescott again, and generally enjoying this beautiful location. We have always loved the Prescott area–in fact, when we were living in Glendale we were considering buying property in Prescott or Prescott Valley, but wound up moving to Tupelo, Mississippi instead to be near family for awhile. We are still seriously considering making this area our final retirement destination once we get off the road, whenever that may be.

Sunset at our camp on Bloody Basin Road

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Safe travels!

Finally Preparing to Move On

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been camped in the same spot for almost three months now. We arrived here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (long term visitor area) on December 27 of last year. We have thoroughly enjoyed staying here in the Yuma area over the winter, and can now understand why so many snowbirds flock here every year. While the rest of the country has endured blizzards, floods, tornadoes and humidity, we have enjoyed sunshine and dry air, with only the occasional light rain to settle the dust. The most annoying weather here has been the wind which can get quite gusty from time to time, but most days the weather is gorgeous.

The wind makes some interesting cloud formations over the campground

However, it is starting to warm up now, and Yuma is NOT the place you want to be when winter is over and it begins to heat up. The temperatures next week are forecast to be in the high 80’s, which if you’re in a sticks and bricks home with air conditioning is not a problem. But if you’re in an RV sitting in the middle of the desert without an electrical hookup, it’s an issue. We do have a generator that we can use to run our air conditioner, but generators use fuel. So instead, we choose to chase 70° and move on down the road.

Spring has arrived in the desert, and the rain showers have brought flowers!

We had been considering moving to the Imperial Dam LTVA since we still have another month left on our annual pass, but when we checked the weather forecast we found that it was not going to be that much cooler at that location. We need to gain some altitude, so our plans are to head up to the Wickenburg, Arizona area to some BLM land where we can boondock for free. We have a spot picked out, and are keeping our fingers crossed that it isn’t too crowded with weekend warriors on ATVs, since we’re planning to arrive on Friday.

We’re getting all our ducks in a row to leave Yuma. Andy found a family doctor here in Yuma that he likes, and was able to get all his prescriptions renewed for another year.

Laundry day again. At least they have free wi-fi!

Yesterday we got the laundry done, picked up an extra moving pad from Harbor Freight to protect the solar panels during travel, and stopped at Home Depot to get a replacement part for the plumbing system. The part is called an “air admittance valve” or “mechanical plumbing valve”, and it fits under the bathroom sink to prevent stinky smells from the black tank from getting into the RV. The old one wasn’t working properly, so Andy installed the new one and it’s much better. It was an easy fix–just screw the old one off and screw the new one on. Thank goodness for YouTube–it’s our go-to source for DIY help on RV maintenance and repairs!

Andy has his last dental appointment this morning when he’ll be getting a new crown. This dentist office has one-day service for crowns since they make them in-house. So unless he needs to return to their office to get something adjusted, we should be done with the dentist today.

After that, we’re going to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma and pick up a few items at the grocery store. When we get back home, Andy will do a final check of all the fluids and tire pressures in preparation for travel. Tomorrow morning, we’ll make a final visit to the breakfast buffet at the casino, then we’ll stow everything away, stop by the dump station to empty the tanks and fill up on propane, and then we’ll be on our way!!

Unless something changes drastically over the next year, we definitely plan to return here next winter. There are a lot of geocaches around here that I purposely chose not to hunt, so that I can look for them in the future. And by next year my COBRA dental insurance will have run out so we’ll get to check out the teeth cleaning in Los Algodones, Mexico.

It’s time to be nomads again!!

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Safe travels!

 

 

Getting Itchy Feet

It’s another beautiful morning here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA in southern California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. We’ve been here for almost 10 weeks now, and while we’re still enjoying it, our time here is winding to a close.

Sunset at the homestead

This past week the afternoon temperatures hit 80° a couple of times, and it’s supposed to be even warmer today and tomorrow. However, it looks like things are going to cool off again for the remainder of the week, so we we still have some time before the heat chases us away from here.

Another reason we haven’t left already is that we’ve both had appointments for dental and medical checkups. We both got our teeth cleaned, and I got one of my fillings replaced at Gila Ridge Dental in Yuma. Andy has an appointment tomorrow with a doctor in Yuma so he can get one of his prescriptions renewed.

We were also waiting around to receive some packages that we had ordered from Amazon. The nearby Chevron station where we dump the tanks and get fresh water also allows campers in the area to have packages shipped to their address for a one-time charge of $3 for the season. People often ask how full-time RVers get their mail and packages on the road–it’s really quite simple, as there are plenty of people who are more than willing to take your money to provide that service.

So, the weather forecast for the next few days looks like this:

Weather forecast for the next week is still darn near perfect

After the heat of today and tomorrow, it’s back to that darn-near perfect weather again. Really, the only reason to leave our spot now is just for a change in scenery, but that’s enough reason for me. I think we’re both getting ready to see something new, and once we have all our business taken care of here in Yuma, we should be ready to roll.

We’re not planning to go far, just far enough to see something new. Our annual pass for the LTVA system is good through April 15, so our next stop will probably be the Imperial Dam LTVA about 50 miles north of us along the Colorado River.

For the past couple of weeks I’d been having a craving for pizza. We couldn’t even remember the last time we had pizza, so on Sunday we decided to splurge a little. We had lunch at Da Boyz Italian restaurant in Yuma, where we split a salad, a veggie pizza, and a slice of tiramisu. It was all delicious, and was so filling that I didn’t bother cooking dinner that evening (BONUS!).

Tiramisu at Da Boyz Italian Restaurant in historic downtown Yuma

So, that’s about all the news from our world right now. Low stress, great weather, good food…just the kind of boring life we were looking for! 🙂

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Safe travels!

All Is Well At Our Winter Camp, Prison Visit, Dental Checkups

It’s about time for another update, even though there’s nothing particularly exciting to report. And that’s a good thing! There have been no issues with the rig or the truck, we and the kitties are healthy and happy, and the weather has been great, especially compared to what the rest of the country is getting.

We are still camped in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) where we’ve been since December 27. If you remember, we paid $180 for a season pass which allows us to park here or at any of the other six winter LTVAs through April 15. It’s a great way to live cheaply where the weather is great while the rest of the country is freezing or being drenched.

We considered leaving Pilot Knob and moving to the Imperial Dam LTVA just for a change of scenery, so a couple of weeks ago we took a drive up there to check it out. It’s a much, much larger LTVA that mostly sits on a bluff above the reservoir. Of course the area with water views is already pretty jam packed with RVs, and even the rest of the LTVA is more crowded than where we currently are. The Imperial Dam LTVA is probably the most popular one in the system–it has its own dump stations and potable water at no charge, which is nice. Many of the residents return to this LTVA every winter, so they have communities established where they park together. This LTVA even has a community breakfast on the weekend along with other planned activities for campers.

View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA

However, after checking it out, we decided to stay where we are for now. For one thing, we are much closer to Yuma for groceries and supplies than we would be at Imperial Dam. Here at Pilot Knob we have the Chevron station right at the campground entrance that has one-stop shopping for the dump station, potable water, filtered drinking water and propane–at Imperial Dam we would have to drive the RV several miles offsite to get propane. Here at Pilot Knob we have access to the nearby Quechan Resort and Casino where we go to breakfast once a week–wouldn’t have that at Imperial Dam. Finally Imperial Dam LTVA is about 5° cooler than where we are currently parked, and we’re still waiting for the weather to warm up some more before we decide to start heading north or to higher elevations.

In short, we are just comfortable where we are and see no reason to move at the moment. And that’s the point of this lifestyle, to be able to live where you want to and move on when you don’t like where you are any more.

Last week we took a tour of the historical Yuma Territorial Prison, or what’s left of it. The prison was built in 1876 (well before Arizona was a State) and was in operation for 33 years before, due to overcrowding, the prisoners were transferred to a new prison in Florence, Arizona. The prisoners were packed six to a cell with two triple-bunks in each cell and only one toilet bucket. Of course there was no air-conditioning and the summers were brutally hot, so the prison became known as the “Hell Hole”.

Inside a cell at the Yuma Territorial Prison

One of the cell blocks. Originally this was enclosed with a roof overhead.

The guard tower was used as a civil defense lookout during WWII

Much of prison was demolished to make room for the Union Pacific railroad bridge over the Colorado River. The remaining structures have been preserved for tourism.

There is a gift shop (of course), along with a very nice museum which includes a film presentation of the history of the prison. You can also visit the prison cemetery where 111 prisoners were buried in graves marked only with heaps of stone.

If you’re in the Yuma area, it’s definitely worth a couple hours of your time to take the tour and get a taste of how justice was dispensed in territorial Arizona.

Last week it was time for our semi-annual dental exams and cleanings. Since I still have good dental insurance through my COBRA from my last job, we found a dentist in Yuma instead of going across the border to Mexico. From the list of approved providers on my insurance, we selected the Gila Ridge Dental clinic based on very positive reviews on social media.

Gila Ridge Dental in Yuma AZ

On Friday we both got our exams done, and I have to say this clinic does the most thorough dental exam I have ever had. They started with the usual x-rays, but then they also took actual photographs of our teeth from every possible angle using a mirror while we held these wire contraptions to hold our lips back. The dentist also did a cancer screening checking our necks, lymph nodes and the interior of our mouths for suspicious anomalies (never had that done by a dentist before).

Instead of the usual bright light overhead, there was a computer monitor which the dentist used to show us all the x-rays and explain what we were looking at (that was also new, and super-cool). Finally, I got my teeth cleaned (great hygienist!), but Andy had to reschedule his cleaning due to them being short-staffed and the type of cleaning that Andy needs to have done. He’s going back today for the cleaning.

Getting our semi-annual dental checkups

I have one filling that has needed to be replaced for years, so I’m going to have that done while we’re still insured. Andy is getting a crown on a tooth that has given him problems for years, but that our previous dentist pretty much ignored. Both of those appointments are scheduled for Tuesday of next week.

We feel very fortunate to have found great dental care in the Yuma area and highly recommend the Gila Ridge Dental Clinic.

Other than that, everything is pretty chill at the moment. And I mean that literally–we have a cold snap going on this week with highs in the 50’s, some occasional 25 MPH wind gusts, and even a little bit of rain in the forecast. But there is still plenty of sunlight for the solar panels, and it’s plenty comfortable in the RV. We have a good stash of DVDs, plenty of books on the Kindles, and lots of room for hiking and geocaching around us.

Interesting cloud formations over the campground

Life is good!!

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