(note: the mapping above would not connect D and E correctly so pretend there’s a line between them! 🙂 )
January 1st, 2021 (aka 2020 won)
New Year’s Day was quiet; Fran skyped with her mom (which is getting harder and harder; she won’t admit she’s losing her hearing so talking on a video chat, is hard for her to read lips), we spoke with Josh; someone at his office tested positive last week but they only found out this week so he’s had to go for a test as well as quarantine so he cannot get kids this weekend to be safe. If he gets results tomorrow, then there’s still a chance but he doubts he’ll know till Monday. He is not experiencing any symptoms.
Joshua recently sent us a link to allow us to watch the International World Junior Hockey tournament so we’ve used our HDMI cable to link the laptop with the big television and are enjoying some good hockey. GO CANADA! We are in the same time zone so no issues staying up late which we love. We watched all the quarter finals, the semis and the medal games.
We are finding with the shorter days/longer nights, we are sleeping in much more than we used to; rare that we are up before 7:30 these days – must be in a “winter hibernation” mode.
On the first Sunday of January, we decided to venture out a bit and check out historic downtown Yuma; it was pretty darn empty and we parked and walked around.
At Pivot Point Park Plaza you can see a locomotive on an original piece of rail
As well as the famous “Ocean to Ocean Bridge” that spans the Colorado and was a built and opened in 1915. IT was the first crossing on the southern Colorado and a gateway to the Gulf of California for shipping.
During the Great Depression, “Okies fleeing from the “Dust Bowl of the Plains” streamed through Yuma on their way to California. Since the bridge was a “choke” point, California law enforcement officials stopped those without money or jobs, and barred them from entering the state. Many of those people settled in Yuma. In the 1980s the bridge was closed after an inspection revealed structural deficiencies. In 1999, the Quechan Indian Tribe and the City of Yuma teamed up to fund the restoration and reopened the bridge in 2002.
Wednesday, Doug picked up his bi-weekly marathon walk habit from our time in Salvador and was quite happy with his first one. It was nice not to get up super early to avoid the heat of the day like in Brazil.
Fran picked up two more black out curtain panels in a gold colour to make curtains for the remaining three windows. She made the smallest one first:
And she’s bought a mini sewing machine to take care of hems etc.
Thursday, we were crossed the border into Mexico to see a dentist in Los Algodones. Fran’s dad used to come here every year for his dental work. We got a recommend from a fellow overlander (Tuck’s Truck from the UK) and were happy with the COVID protocols in place at the office. In town, most everyone was wearing a mask outside as well.
Fran had a cleaning and was fitted for a night guard as her bite is off; she was also given a recommended follow up plan for crowns in the foreseeable future and the usual recommend to do something with her baby tooth (but why when it’s not an issue???). Doug needed two root canals and crowns so we go back Monday to get his permanent crowns fitted and he will get a deep cleaning done.
Next was an optometrist for eye exams and new glasses/lenses (Doug wanted to keep his frames) ; they will be ready on Monday when we return to the dentist.
The town itself is full, and we mean full, of dental offices, followed by optical shops and drugstores. We took advantage of the latter as well and Fran topped up on her scripts. There were a few food carts and a few restaurants but we were also looking for truck seat covers and to have some keys cut but no luck on either of those fronts. The town is in the state of Baja California and while the rest of the state is on Pacific Time like California in the US, Los Algodones runs on Arizona time to suit all the people from Yuma! (Arizona does not observe daylight savings time so neither does this town.)
It’s a pretty dead town these days with COVID and so few snowbirds in Yuma. (As of yesterday, AZ was THE hotspot in the world – mostly around Phoenix and Tucson.) When we came here in 2001 with Fran’s dad, it took about three hours to cross the border back into the US; today, took us 5 minutes!
Friday, we went exploring in our truck to a few neighbourhoods near the canal in the city that has paved paths. The more southern part was nicer homes – just something to consider should we decide to settle down here one day…..
When we were in Quartzite last month and went off roading to the mine, we noticed a great deal of dust/sand made its way into the truck bed. Doug ordered and received some tailgate tape and installed that today. We then found a coin operated car wash and gave the bed a good clean. after He had cleaned all the boxes we keep back there and it’s all back together nice and clean. We hope the tape works for our next adventure.
Saturday the 9th, started with a belated Christmas zoom meeting with Serena, Josh and the grandkids. Due to his COVID quarantine, he had been unable to have them come over for New Year’s weekend so this weekend is Christmas with Dad. We joined them to watch them open some gifts and we’ll do a third Christmas whenever it is that we actually get there in person later this year. They seemed to like the idea of the hockey sticks we gave them. Josh hopes to make an ice rink in the back yard as the weather gets colder so hopefully we can watch them play. In the meantime they set up a “rink” in the basement later that day.
Yesterday we met a few temporary folks here in the park; they are here only for a week but introduced themselves upon arrival. Jen, her little daughter, Sylvie, and her parents, Bob and his wife) are travelling in two vehicles each pulling their own “home”.
When we were back in Vancouver last year, we’d been asked if we had tried “Pickle Ball” – well, we’d never heard of it, so that was a “no”. Jen asked us if we’d like to play sometime so we said we’d love to try it out so this morning, off we went to the pickle ball court they have here complete with rackets and they let us practice hitting the ball to them and taught us some of the rules before playing. They completely creamed us the first game but we did manage a few points in the second one. It’s tough game to play for Doug due to his poor depth perception and lack of vision on the left side but it was cool to try it.
Pickleball, an amalgamation of tennis, badminton and ping pong is played with hard paddles and perforated plastic balls. Because the court is smaller than a tennis court (20 feet by 44 feet) and games are shorter, pickleball is easier on the body while providing as much of a workout as a player’s skill level permits.
According to the USA Pickleball Association, the game was invented 55 years ago by three dads who were looking to entertain their kids during the summer. They made the equipment themselves and created simple rules that everyone could grasp. Several stories exist about how the game got its name, but the one that seems to be most acknowledged is that it was christened in honor of a dog that belonged to one of the founding families. Pickles, the dog, loved to chase the ball and run off with it, the story goes.
On Monday the 11th, in the morning we were up before 7 (that’s really early for us these days!) and off to Mexico to get the rest of our dental work and pick up our new glasses. Both appointments went well and we were back in the US with NO wait at the border this time.
When we hit the I8 we headed west a bit to check out the historic plank road across the Imperial Dunes. We’d been to the dunes 20 years ago but had not been aware of this.
The story of the Plank Road began with the era of automobile transportation and a spirit of competition between the cities of San Diego and LA for commerce coming from the east. Businessman and road builder “Colonel” Ed Fletcher was a key promoter for San Diego and sponsored a race from his home town to Phoenix. The LA Examiner newspaper issued a challenge to him.
The race took place in October 1912. Fletcher completed the race from San Diego to Phoenix in 19.5 hours and beat the Examiner’s reporter who had been given a 24 hour head start, by ten hours. Fletcher had his car pulled across the Imperial Duns by a team of horses. The plank road was then built in 1915 and was a factor in the decision to build Yuma’s Ocean to Ocean bridge. Maintaining the road was a nightmare and a second road with 8’ planks was built the following year. It was in use for the next 10 years before a 20’ wide asphalt like road was built. The wooden plank road was 8 miles long across the dunes. In 1973-74 restoration work began and a monument was recognized here.
We treated ourselves to Egg McMuffins at McDonald’s on the way home and stopped at a large grocery store to check out options for flavoured waters without caffeine – yes, we are going to try and wean ourselves off diet coke. Fran only has one a day normally but Doug can still manage to sneak one or two more than that in during the day and we both want to stop. We found a few options that aren’t too pricey and we’ll give them a shot. We do have some liquid drops to flavour water but the good ones came from Canada and we cannot find anything similar in the store here; all have aspartame or other bad sweeteners; the President Choice brand is sweetened with Stevia – which we prefer.
Today we heard from a friend of ours, Dave, who used to work with Doug back when he worked in Denver in 2002. His wife passed away a couple of years ago and he bought himself a motorhome and is travelling the US. He is a dual citizen like we are and works part time on contracts in both countries. He is heading our way next week while his motorhome is in for some work (he pulls a pickup truck) and we plan caravan a couple of off road routes in our trucks for a couple of days. We hope to hear from him next Monday to finalize plans.
Tuesday and Wednesday Fran spent some time working on the curtains for the rear of the trailer; she had to order rods from Amazon as she couldn’t find tension rods long enough and we’d rather not put holes in the walls but they came on Sunday and the last piece of the job is the tie backs that should arrive tomorrow – also no nails: magnetic ones.
She then managed to give away all five mini blinds to a Hispanic woman online – and their correspondence was all in Spanish!
Thursday we had bad news from Doug’s sister regarding their mom; she lives in a care home and has not been happy there and there has been a significant decline in her status; she’s no longer mobile, she had four falls in the past 24 hours, has anger issues and her cognitive and speaking skills are increasingly become worse. Very difficult being so far away and even if Doug flew to Canada, he’d have to have a negative COVID test and quarantine for 14 days and we’re not sure she’ll still be around after that time. To make matters worse, he probably couldn’t even visit. So we have arranged a ZOOM call with her inviting all members of the family for Saturday; here’s hoping we get a good turnout.
Friday it continued to get quite warm – a bit out of the ordinary for this early in January but we’ll take it. It’s supposed to reach 29C / 84F over the weekend and then get more normal next week.
The tiebacks for our curtains arrived:
Doug received the parts to extend the Wi-Fi connection between the backup camera and the truck and first we’re going to try replacing the backup camera – what’s happening in case we haven’t mentioned is that the signal is not constant to the monitor in the truck and often freezes and almost as often disappears. The company sent us a new camera and a set of extension parts to try these options. Unfortunately this means hooking up the trailer to take it for a drive to test it at highway speeds. Saturday morning he replaced the camera first and we took it for a test drive after our zoom call.
We had a 35 minute zoom call with Doug’s mom, his two sisters, one brother, our kids one nephew and Doug’s uncle. Doreen was in bed looking quite frail but we think she recognized us all although didn’t partake much. Sadly in these times, it’s as close as we are going to get to seeing her.
Afterwards, we hooked up the trailer with the new camera attached at the back but were still having the same issues; we’d brought the extension pieces and stopped on the side of the road, hooked them up and that seemed to make a huge difference. It still freezes once in a while but only for a micro second, not nearly as often and no “blue screen of death”. So the antenna is mounted to the front leg of the front solar panel now with the cords strung from the camera on the back of the trailer (under the running lights), along underneath the other solar panels to the antenna. When we got back Doug used some double side adhesive tape to secure it in place; it is magnetic but not sure a good strong wind won’t make it fall.
Sunday was another warm day and we actually had to pull out of fan to keep the inside of the trailer bearable. ‘Kinda hate to put the AC on in winter! It does cool down at night and tonight is supposed to be even a little cooler as the temps will drop more into the “normal” range this week with a slight chance of rain mid-week; we’ve not seen rain since Vegas and that was for ten seconds only!
On Sunday’s walk you could see the vegetable fields getting greener alongside the canal:
Monday, a few Amazon parcels arrived and we had to return 2 of the 3; the third was a set of matte black lettering to go on the back of the truck:
Later we began looking more closely at the road we want to off road tomorrow and discovered that it goes through the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range and a permit is required as well as the adjacent, Cabeza Prieta Natural Reserve. Fran called the Visitors Centre in Ajo to which she only got a voice mail (they are closed for COVID) but fortunately, it advised which website to go to in order to get a permit. She did that right away, applied, had to watch a 14 minute video and was granted a permit which she had to then go print. Unfortunately, the site didn’t provide maps or information but we think we have enough of both of those. Doug passed on the website to Dave so he could do the same and both our vehicles could traverse these “permit required” areas. That evening, Dave dropped by around dinner time and we sat outside (responsibly) having a beer and catching up a bit. We made plans for the next two days.
Tuesday morning, Dave arrived at 8 and we set off to drive the “El Camino Diablo”.
El Camino del Diablo (Spanish for “the Devil’s Highway”) is a historic road that currently extends through some of the most remote and arid terrain of the Sonoran Desert, east of Yuma. In use for at least 1,000 years, El Camino del Diablo is believed to have started as a series of footpaths used by desert-dwelling Native Americans and parts of it were in Mexico (this section has been paved by the Mexican government and became part of their Federal Highway 2). The road parallels the border and at times is only 1.5 miles away from it. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, the road was used extensively by conquistadores, explorers, missionaries, settlers, miners, and cartographers. Use of the trail declined sharply after the railroad reached5 Yuma in 1870. In recognition of its historic significance, El Camino del Diablo was listed on the National Regisgter of Historic Places, in 1978. It has also been designated a BLM Country Byway.
The name, like its other historic name Camino del Muerto, (“road of the dead man”) refers to the harsh, unforgiving conditions on trail.
We headed east on I8 we hit a bit of rain but it didn’t last long and we exited at Wellton heading south to hit the El Camino – we encountered this sign:
(In the video we had to watch it talks about the air force base and the possibility of coming across “unexploded ordinances”.)
Dave took a selfie of the three of us and our trucks:
The first part of the road:
First thing we stopped at was this: (must be for some sort of military exercise)
Then as we stopped to let a large truck go by, we were greeted by a coyote:
A few miles further we went off the main road onto a deep sandy one to find this 30’ rock circle with an arrow pointing northwest towards Tinja Altas with a large number “8” inside it. Some say it’s the burial site of 8 Mexicans emigrants who died there in 1849. Others say it’s intended as a navigational aid.
Next pit stop was a short hike out to a water tank which turned out to be dry:
We stopped at a picnic area with an cabin and a monument on the hill:
We stopped shortly after this to check out some cactus plants.
While parked a border patrol vehicle pulled up and we chatted a bit. He gave us a souvenir: shell casings; we took them but did not want to keep them. We threw them out when we got home. (We passed by three border patrol stations today – apparently they are work out here for a week at a time.)
The weather began clearing as we continued east and we saw no more rain that day. We did stop a few times to try and find graves but only ever found one we were sure of – that of O’Neill – the only person known to have drowned on this route – in a feed trough full of water!
Then we drove through a cactus forest:
There were many cool small mountains and mounds of rocks:
We crossed into the Cabeza Prieta Natural Reserve and at one wash we stopped for a snack and could see the stupid border wall:
Another stop was at the Drunken Cactus:
The rest of the drive took us through the northwest corner of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
But we didn’t see many organ pipe cactus arounds us.
We hit the main Highway 85 around 4:30 and found a motel for the night:
The motel manager recommended a restaurant for dinner and after checking that they were observing COVID protocol we got two separate tables and chatted while have a pretty good dinner (Fran had an excellent margarita too!).
Next morning we awoke to discover it had rained pretty heavily overnight but the bright side that was most of the sandy dust had been washed off the trucks!
We met up with Dave again at 8 am and drove back into town to explore a bit. Ajo was a mining town up until 1985 when the copper mine shut down. Its downtown is pretty cute and it was worth a walk around.
Two churches (Federated and Catholic):
A small park with more artwork
A pretty town square with arches walls on three sides
It sprinkled a bit on us during our walk but nothing too heavy. Our plan that day had been to head north and then east back to Yuma with two stops. Dave decided he’d just head back to Tucson and check out those spots next month when he returned with his girlfriend, so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. We hit some somewhat heavy rain on our way north and were skeptical about our new two stops.
Our first stop after gassing up in Gila Bend was to the Painted Rock Petroglyphs BLM site. The walk here was short so we figured even if it rained, we wouldn’t be outside long. This area has a large campground and the petroglyphs themselves are off to the side. You pay a small $2 entrance fee per vehicle and take a half mile stroll around a big pile of rocks on which one side of the pile, has many “painted” rocks.
The sun peeked out a few times before we left here but the cloud cover westward looked ominous. The hike at Sears Point was just over two miles and as we approached the turnoff it began raining once again so we skipped that spot. The main thing to see there was more petroglyphs on cliff walls rather than on rocks so we didn’t think we were missing too much. Should we come this way again and the weather is better, we could check it out.
We got home around noon on Inauguration Day – yeah! the US has a new president.
We saw that it was quite wet with huge puddles. We learned later that last night there’d been a thunder and lightning storm – extremely rare this time of year.
When we tried to connect to the park Wi-Fi, it lasted about an hour and then we never could get on again for the rest of the day. We talked to the office on Thursday and we were told, it had to be our equipment; later we talked to them again and told them how if we just walked 25 feet closer to the office, further from the Wi-Fi tower that is supposed to supply our signal, we can pick up that Wi-Fi signal but as soon as you approach that other tower, it disappears. We were advised that the owner would be around in a few days and we could discuss with him then. In the meantime, we went to sit in the common room to use the internet there. The sun came out that afternoon although it did not get as warm as last week. By evening we tried various methods to move out Wi-Fi extender to no avail.
Our Wi-Fi extender and repeater:
Friday morning we had working internet until lunch time; the signal was reachable but after that, had no internet. We could consider moving to another part of the park but that means all upcoming mail and packages won’t be addressed correctly. We have ordered a “yaggi” extender from Amazon and will give it a try; if it doesn’t work we can return it.
The weekend was pretty uneventful; cooler and windy but dry. Doug did a 16 mile run on Sunday – his longest in years so he was pretty darn happy.
Still no internet access and Sunday we learned that the owner will not be around until the end of the month!
Monday day we awoke to dark clouds and it sprinkled some then around 10:30 it poured and there were a couple of flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder but it didn’t last long. By 11 the sky was clearing and the afternoon was sunny but it didn’t warm up much beyond 14C / 57F; our coolest day here in Yuma for sure. Doug went out to Lowe’s and got supplies to make a pole/stand for the antenna we ordered and it arrived late that afternoon; we should have the cable in the morning.
Tuesday we received the cable and our mail (which included new vehicle tags for all our vehicles, the trailer title and some Christmas cards!). We had already planned to take another short road trip – this time only for the day. It was sunny and warmer than Monday and we drove north into the Imperial Wildlife National Refuge to do two hikes.
Enroute you pass through the Yuma Proving Grounds where we saw some military sky diving training going on:
First hike was the Meer’s Point trail and we did the 1km hike out and back where we learned this:
Certain fly species lay their eggs on creosote bush branch bunds; as the larvae hatch they begin to feed on the plant and the bush grows a ball of leafy material around the larvae called a “gall”.
Do you know how to age a saguaro cactus? It’s by its height (which can also be affected by climate) but the first arms of a saguaro will not appear until between 50 and 100 years old! Some of the tallest ones are up to 200 years old and can weigh seven tons.
and saw this: burro trails. Notice the patch of sand/dust near the top left corner; this is a spot they like to roll around in the sand/dust when it’s too hot outside.
And these sandy depressions near the trail are where they often lay down to roll in the sand when they get too hot.
At the visitor centre which was naturally closed for COVID, there were a few hummingbird feeders and a lovely desert garden.
Enroute to our next hike a little ways down the road, we took a short drive to Mesquite Point and came upon a huge pond with ducks.
Painted Desert Trail was a very pretty loop walk through colourful hills.
About half way, we came upon two women with two small children and they pointed out some big horn sheep on the hills! We probably wouldn’t have seen them if they hadn’t told us as they blend in well, are very quiet and they weren’t in our direct line of sight. Apparently when they first saw them they were much closer to the trail so they’d hung around watching them.
We had intended to then check out the old mining town of Castle Dome Landing bit discoursed from Doug’s Wikipedia page that the town is now under water and the existing museum has “replicas” of the buildings so we passed on that. On the way back we could still see the blimp in the air and spotted two more on the ground:
We returned home to Araby where we ran some errands and made a DQ drive thru pit stop before going home.
Upon returning home, we got our new antenna hooked up and after some trial and error pointing it in the right direction, are back online!
another pic of poles
The few days of January was pretty uneventful. We chatted with our kids and mothers – both of whom have had their first vaccination dose. Weather was pretty good – little sprinkle on Friday afternoon for like ten minutes but otherwise mostly sunny and around 20C / 70F.
Update on weaning off coke: all the drinks we bought a couple of weeks ago failed the taste test; it’s the bubbles in the seltzer we don’t care for. We tried opening the cans when they were cold and leaving them to go flat but there’s still an aftertaste neither of us is crazy about; it’s okay but not going to do it for us. Fran found some water enhancers on Amazon that use Stevia instead of artificial sweeteners and we are enjoying four of the first five favours and we’re going to try the other five too. These seem more promising – we are now down to our last 2l bottle of diet coke….
As always check our galleries for even more photos!