Feb 1 - Thursday
We had a reminder this morning that we were in a place were dogs roam freely. There were papers and other debris strewn over our little patch of green carpet. Looked like some wild dogs had paid the park a visit during the night, finding something to their liking. While it wasn't our liking, I think they enjoyed their meal on the comfort of our mat. And to make sure they could find our site in the future, and to discourage others from using it, they left a little remembrance.
After our usual oatmeal breakfast we joined in another caravan adventure, this time to the Old Port area of town. While we thought we doing the right thing, it turned out that it was not quite what we expected. I'm referring to the drive through town, not the area of town. There were only two vehicles going and with four people to read the maps and watch the signs, the other vehicle went first, with Linda and I following in the Explorer. I'm not sure what we were thinking, and we soon found out the foursome in front of us weren't thinking at all. So if you're ever in Puerto Penasco, don't decide to follow a pickup truck with an upside down boat on it bearing Virginia license plates, where the navigator is some weirdo from Victoria, Texas and expect to arrive where you thought you would. I will say it was an interesting trip, what with the nice strangers we met who gave us helpful directions, the interesting, never seen by the usual American tourist parts of town we saw, the exciting hotel parking lots we seemed to find ourselves in, and of course the topper, the drive uphill going the wrong way on the one way street. Well, we say Life is an adventure, and here it was, still midmorning, and we'd already had more than enough adventure for one day.
I know there is a saying that goes something to the effect that if any fool stumbles around long enough, they're going to find what they're looking for, which was certainly the case with our leaders, as we finally found the Old Port area and set out to do some sightseeing. The main sites to see in this area are more shops catering to the tourists, but there is also the waterfront. You can see what the waterfront view of the future will be.
Just to the right of the center in this photo is narrow dark line. That's the roof of our coach, shown where it is housed with the several hundred other RV's in the Playa Bonita RV Park across the bay.
The waters of the bay are so pretty, and the shrimp and fishing boats make the view even prettier.
The shore front here is not a nice sandy beach but the rocks do offer respite to the birds. We watched as a pelican tried and tried to swallow the late morning meal he had caught, finally managing to get it down the hatch.
We were getting ready to doing a little shopping when four people came up to us and asked if we were staying in the area. Turned out they were Americans who had driven down for the day and hadn't a clue as to where anything was. We told them we sure had seen a lot of the city, but it because we were lost so often and sightseeing by wandering around seemed to be not such a bad way of seeing things. From the look on their face, I don't think that was how they wanted to see Puerto Penasco, so pointing them towards the helpful fellows down by the city parking area, we bid them adios. Turning around we saw another example of the way things are done in other countries. The building across the street had a steeply sloped roof covered with what appeared to be palm fronds. To hold them down they had employed a simple solution, lay some concrete blocks on them. Somehow or other I don't think we'd ever see this on the other side of the border.
You can find all kinds of things in this town, all you have to do is walk around. Here's a photo Linda took of me with a couple of guys just aping it up. That's me on the left and the big ape on the right is Richard, he who was the navigator who lost his bearings on this trip.
All this touristing had made us both, hungry and thirsty, so up the hill we walked, coupons in hand for the free margarita when you order the all you can eat fish platter. The restaurant was the Old Port Galley and I'll try to be nice by saying the margarita "mix" sure was tasty, the fish was served hot, plus if you like cole slaw, the little cup we got was very very good and golly gee whiz, we got all that for only $7.99. By the way, it might be advisable to bring something to wave to get the waiters' attention for seconds, as they seem to have poor eyesight.
One thing occasionally shows up on the many websites that have something about Puerto Penasco seems to have a photo of the Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar, which sits high atop the port. Deciding that it would be bad if I did not follow their lead, here is ours. We did not find our way up there however. Our fearless leader, he of the upside down boat tried, but some of the driving adventures already spoken of, were the only result.
Back at the RV Park, we were immediately greeted with an announcement of yet another night out on the town, which in this case was a good thing. Good because the restaurant we were going to was just up the street from where we had just eaten lunch, so the probability of driving there without wandering all over town was excellent. I do know that if I ever see a guy driving an upside down boat in a desert town, I'm sure as heck not going to follow him.
By the way, that's the roadrunner masquerading as a chicken that the other Linda got took on, I mean, bought real cheap, yesterday. We had not spent all that time in such close proximity to all those shops today without making a couple of purchases ourselves. Linda soon had them out on display or so I thought, until she asked to borrow the camera to take a picture. We had been searching every shop we had been in for two things, a set of very small slightly frosted glasses for drinking our Port and also for two small woven fabric mats we could put on the counter by my window, a task we finally succeeded in accomplishing.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing after that harrowing trip through town behind that upside down boat, so I worked, with some degree of success, at getting caught up on the daily journal, while Linda squinted at her beads. Before long she had to call in reinforcements due to the new pattern she was working on.
Sandy, who is helping Linda, is really good at giving directions. She was also in the upside down boat today, so when I asked her why she didn't navigate that bunch that included a lost fisherman and the Texans twosome, she told us they said they knew where they were going and didn't need her help. Now I can agree with the, they knew where they were going part, but I'd avow as to how they sure had no idea as to how to get there. Guess we could excuse her for not knowing how to get a Texans attention, which is to whack them over the head with a board, just like you do to get the attention of any simple minded, stubborn jackass.
Later we all caravaned down to the restaurant, making sure to not be behind the upside down boat, though I will admit to having some serious qualms when we found ourselves riding with those crazy Texans. We did arrive without incident and after being led up to the back room of the restaurant, proceeded to work hard at having a good time. It was a little slow at first as the following show.
The other end of the table was no better. Though, Virgil, he of the blue stripped shirt being a career Army man, seemed to hold the promise of better things to come. You will also note that in the above photo, liquid refreshments were sorely lacking.
While we waited for the evening to burst forth, I couldn't help but notice how well the sign on the wall seemed to describe these three rather somber, elderly gentlemen who were part of our little group.
Soon things began to pick up, and as suspected, it was the Army which was leading the way.
Soon the old Army veteran was working on his second drink, when out came the Flan with candles, seems Virg had a birthday and we were helping him celebrate.
Then, because there are times in your Life that are extra special, he really, really go into celebrating it. Looks like you can take take the man out of the Army, but you can't take the enlisted men's club out of the Army man.
Given the state of affairs across the table, was it no wonder that the next thing that caught everyones attention were thingy, things. Here was the sign in the woman's restroom. The ladies were having a hard time understanding just exactly what it meant, with some saying they sign was just full of crap, while others were even more descriptive in their choice of words.
When the report came back that the the urinal in the men's room just had to be seen to be believed. That set off a mad dash and I was fortunate enough to avoid being trampled and capture the moment when the first of our group looked in the door.
Lest you wonder what all the fuss was about, here it is.
Overheard as we were walking out was a female voice asking, "But why was it so long?", to which a male voice replied, "At your age, if you don't understand by now, you never will." Like they say, some days are interesting and some days are very interesting, it doesn't take two guesses to figure out what kind of day we had. I started out today talking about how things had seemingly gone to the dogs, guess you could say it ended the same way.
Feb 2 - Friday
Today we planned on doing some sightseeing, as we have a trip to the Puerto Penasco Aquarium in mind. It is south of town, but to get there you have to drive in a somewhat roundabout manner. We took the road to Los Conchas, then ened up on a dirt road that winds over toward the water. The Acuario is the same blue color as the school that sits beside. It was not what we were used to seeing in the states, but when you put it in the persepective of the economy and the culture of the area, it was a pleasant interlude and gave us a chance to see something that is probably bypassed by most visitors. Some of the creatures seemed to have as much curiosity about us as we had of them. Wonder if it's thinking, "What the eel is that thing looking at me?
They had a large open pool which was home to appromimately a half dozen sea turtles, and Linda being the farm girl who has always loved animals, just had to pet them while I decided to forgo the opportunity. After all, there's always next year. There was a big cage at the one end of the building where two Sea Lions frolicked about at high speed, going in circles so fast it was sometimes hard to see. Linda tried and tried to get them to stop and visit with her, but all to no avail.
Just as we were about to give up, we watched as family started feeding some pieces of fish to the sea lions. Walking up to the counter, I saw a small sign with the word alimento, or something close, in it and at the bottom, $10.00. Though my basic spanish comes from a high school course taken more than forty years ago, working with spanish speaking employes the past number of years before we took up this life had given me a few insights into words. Deciding it meant that a bag of fish was $1 American or $10 pesos, I bought a bag and you would have thought Linda was in seventh heaven, plus it didn't take long for her new friend to show up.
It also didn't take long for the two of them to come to a happy understanding, though I did notice what with all the teeth showing, Linda chose to feed it through the smaller opening in the cage.
Walking from the Aquarium down towards the beach, Linda chanced upon an area that was just littered with shells, and better yet, they were all the kind she likes.
The whole ground was nothing but shells and you could tell that at one time a structure of one sort or another had been built over this spot. What ever it was, all that remained were these thousands of shells. Here's a closeup view of what the ground looked like.
A few further steps and we were out on the beach. The upper part of which was all sand, but down close to the waters edge, it was quite rocky. Because the rocks are pock marked with shallow depressions that collected shells as the tide went out, our resident shell hound was soon in prime form.
Returning to the aquarium, the bright mural on the outside spoke volumes to us about the attitude of the people who live here.
Linda wasn't the only one who was doing some beachcombing and so here's a photo with a story. Seems linda wanted to take one of those candid camera type of photo's of me, but she couldn't get her camera, which was my old one, to work. She finally asked me and when I showed her how, she proceeded to act less than pleased. When I asked her why, she told me it was because now I would know she was trying to to take a picture of me. Pleeeze, give me a break. Is that all women ever think of, how to catch us doing something when we don't know they're watching? Just one more difference between them and us.
We still had a couple of other things we wanted to do while we were out, not the least of which was to eat lunch, so we headed back down to Old Port to see if we could find a place to grab some shrimp tacos. On the way Linda suggested I take her picture. Of course while I was in the process of taking it I was asked, "Do you know what Linda vista means?" That's one of those types of questions that women ask out of the blue and for which there is simple no good anwser. If I implied that I did, then she'd want to know what it meant. If I said, no I didn't, I most likely would have gotten a less than delightful stare. The photo tells it all, and I'm told Linda vista means beautiful view. Women, the only unknowable mystery of the universe.
The thing that gets me is how all these RVAer's we are with think Linda is this kind, sweet, warm hearted, fun loving person. Sometime I'm going to have to ask her to put on that act when I'm around. (Editors comment: You just bring out the best in me!) Our next stop was at the Blue Marlin, where we partook of the specialty of the house, the shrimp and fish tacos. As we waited for the food to arrive we enjoyed our iced tea (Linda) and Jamaica (Bob). If you've never had a Jamaica, you should try one sometime. Made from hibiscus flowers it has the most deep clear intense dark red color and a taste to match, which can be a real treat.
When the tacos arrived we found them to be as good as anything we have eaten since we arrived. We prefer the soft corn tortillas which they were served in, but the crowning achievement was the cilantro sauce. Both Linda and I are quite partial to the taste of cilantro, using it often in the foods we prepare, but this was far better than anything we have ever contocted. The cilantro flavor just popped and the light green color added a festive atmosphere to the tacos. We had also ordered a side of beans at the suggestion of the couple who were eating at the table next to ours. All I need to say was, Linda, who isn't a big fan of frijoles, almost stabbed me several times as I tried to take some, saying that she'd eat her share and I'd get what was left. I have to say my two small forkfulls were some of the best frijoles I've ever eaten, but I would have liked to have had more. (Editors comment again: he put HOT sauce over his half of the beans just as soon as the waitress put them down--as Bob knew then I would not eat his half). [Writers rebubuttal: It was a quarter of the beans at most that I splashed the tinest amount of hot sauce on. She got to eat at least 3/4ths of them, and I know now she probably wanted them all. Next time it's hot sauce over the whole plate, baby. One thing we both agreed on was, they sure were good beans] We did find there was more than enough salsa and chopped cabbage, so we ended the meal by mixing them together and topping that with the last of the cilatro dressing. You can call it whatever you want, we called it the best restaurant dessert we have had in ages. As always, our path may not be the same one you would take, but we sure do enjoy it.
If you're ever here, the Blue Marlin is located on Limeon Ave just off the main street in Old Port and just below the church on the hill.
Before we left we used the facilities and once again Linda was intrigued by the sign by the toilet paper. I just hope she doesn't forget where she's at when she wakes up for some number 2 in the night and does the same thing in the coach.
We had two more stops to make on the way back, the first one was at "The Cowboy" in the fish market, a place that was suggested to us in an email we received from Rich who chronicles his travels at the Roaming America website. We got a pound of large shrimp for $7 a pound, which included shelling, then also bought a pound of fresh asparagus for a dollar. Something tells me breakfast isn't going to be oatmeal tomorrow morning.
Our last stop was at the Gloria Farmacia, where Linda picked up a few things she had been needing. What she got and what she thought she got proved to be two different things, which means we will be making a return trip tomorrow to not only get some things they were ordering for her, but also to return somethings she got today.
While we had been doing the Bob and Linda tourist tango today, others of the group had been doing their things. Richard headed off in the predawn hours for Shacks Fifth Ave, which should have given him enough time to to find it before sunset. Another group headed down to the fishing dock, spending half of the day out in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez trying to catch finned things that swim. They were so successful we were actually going to have a meal of the fish they caught. I tried to get a photo of the fish and other food, but as you can see, this hungry horde was like a bunch of vultures around an antelope carcass, or maybe to put a bit more tastefully, and in the spirit of of the trip, like a flock of seagulls around a fish carcass.
With full plates, everyone headed for the warmth of the campfire, but as you can see, the definition of a full plate is the expression of personal taste. From all appearences, the antics of last evening had not dulled Virgil's appetite in any way.
Later as everyone else was heading back to the table for seconds, we looked over into the corner and Mike, the jokester, was busily looking at some scraps of paper. He had told us how he keeps the punch line to his jokes written down, the only problem was he had trouble remembering the joke. It looked like he might be in a serious joke telling mood tonight and it wasn't long before he emerged from his corner to hold sway.
The only problem was that after the diesel fitter joke of several nights ago, most of his attempts tonight were met with a slight twitter.
The other problem was it was getting downright cold out tonight, plus there was a wind blowing. Virgil moved his truck around to the open side to block the wind, but poor Mike's jokes were so bad, he wasn't even blowing any hot air. Before long the crowd thinned out, us among them, as everyone returned to the warmth of their RV's. A couple of mugs of steaming hot chocolate, a slice of zucchini chocolate chip cake and a bowl of ice cream topped off another fantastic day in Mexico. To think that 14 months ago I would have been working my butt off helping the sons of the owner of the company I worked for enjoy this life and now it is my turn. If that ain't a great thought to end the day on, I don't know what is.
Feb 3 - Saturday
I didn't have to guess what we had for breakfast this morning, because Linda had a plan to put the shrimp and asparagus we had bought yesterday to good use.
First she poured some olive oil, extra virgin of course, into a skillet and heated it, then added four cloves of coarsely chopped garlic, which were sautéed while stirring for about 30 seconds. Then she added the shrimp and asparagus, both of which she had cut in half, and cooked them for a minute. When the down side had turned pink, she turned them and cooked the other side, for another minute. Then she added two well beaten eggs (with a little water added) and cooked the mixture covered until puffed and set.
Of course as anyone who follows our life can attest, there was no way we could have something this new, fresh and flavorful without some controversy occurring. In this case it dwelt with the purity of the food. That's not purity as in unclean or unwashed because we were lucky to have any asparagus left by the time she finished soaking, washing, scrubbing and rinsing it, no, the controversy dealt with after the fact food additives. Seems the chef was of the opinion that sacrilege would take place if anything other than the black pepper she had course ground over the omelet was allowed to be added to this dish. Myself, looking to give it a little more of a south of the border twist, was busily removing the lid from the habrenaro sauce that I had retrieved from the refrigerator.
Fortunately for me, it only took a glance at the brooding blond to realize that my best option was to quickly propose a compromise which heavily favored her position from the get go. I will admit that the omelet, sans sauce, was very, very good and the two small bites I had with habernaro sauce were also quite tasty. Maybe we'll have it again tomorrow and I can have three bites with habernaro sauce, that is, if she wakes up in a good mood, otherwise, I'll be thankful for what I got to taste today. Plus, I've learned that life doesn't have to be a battle, as long as she gets her way.
After breakfast we spent the day doing a whole lot of nothing with a few breaks to give it a change of pace. Somehow or other I had managed to fall behind in my writing, plus I had some other literary endeavors that I had been working on which had accumulated a covering of dust that is more like a blanket than a film. Could it be I was really needing a vacation from our vacation? Since the writing bug was biting, I decided I'd yield to its allure and see where it led. Since I'm now current with the daily journal, it was a good journey, plus it was not a day of all play and no work, such as has been happening lately. Sometimes it's just not what is written but also what is seen. Take the Playa Bonita RV Park for instance.
That was a photo of the road inside the park, in front of where we are parked that parallels the beach. The RVs to the right are facing the beach at an angle and you can sense, as well as see, that the roadways are quite narrow. It's just a matter of driving slow and sometimes trying several times to make a turn or back into a spot. It's a place where no one seems to be in a hurry, so neither do you need to hurry either. One other thing is the empty spaces which you can see. This is not the busy time for the park, which is spring through fall, and especially at spring break when we understand it is a total zoo down here. Not that the park is a desolate barren wasteland, far from it, as it is probably 75%-80% full, but that's just my best guesstimate. Still it is easy to understand why when Linda called about reservations, they said we didn't need any and to just come on down, not exactly the words you want to hear when you are heading off into a foreign country for the first time. But once we arrived, we could see they were right.
As I've mentioned before the RVA group is all parked together, back to back, along one row. Here's our row looking from the beach end towards the backside of the park. The four motorhomes, plus a 5th wheel which is hidden behind the last motorhome, are all RVA RV's.
Here is the other row of RVA RV's which are backed up to our row, which includes the four motorhomes, the 5th wheel and a T@B trailer which is hidden among the larger rigs.
The spaces are wide enough to extend your slides and still park a tow vehicle, but the problem can be the depth of the site which weren't designed to accommodate the longer RV's of today. As you can see from this view, we all just backed up and hung over into the site behind us by a little bit. The bottom line is even though it's a little crowed and it may take some jockeying to get into the site, the end result is definitely worth it. Some of the people in our group who have seen some of the parks further out of town said those parks had wider rows, but that was all and besides the restrooms and showers here are pristine. Not bad at all for $114 a week and the fun of being in a different culture.
Returning from our walk, we checked the bulletin board to see what time this evenings group meal would be. You've got to love a potluck that is called the "scarifical meal" or "dump dinner". Kind of conjures up all manner of things in the overactive mind, doesn't it? This is not a meal of dead seagull or black tank stew. Heck, we are not even having roasted Texan with an apple in his mouth, though there's been hints to that effect, (maybe next year). What the meal consists of is any food items anyone needs to get rid of to either make room for shrimp in their freezer, or because it is a no-no to take back into the states. Could make for an interesting meal later this evening.
I would be remiss if I didn't show off Linda's flower garden. After the demise of her tomato plants, the flower garden is now her pride and joy. The Dutch Iris have all sprouted and are starting to reach upward. Only time will tell whether they meet the same fate as the tomatoes, though if Linda has any influence on the outcome, it will be flowers rather than funerals. Doesn't look like much now, but just wait.
Linda saw a bunch of bright white things down on the beach just as the peanut time alarm sounded. Figuring no one would notice her mixed in with all those other shimmering white objects, she had me lug the lawn chairs down closer to waters edge so she would blend in. I was thinking why wouldn't someone notice the bright blue lawn chairs contrasting with the sand. Realizing that was not on her mind, I wisely chose not to say anything. I'll let you decide just how well she blended in with the winged natives out on the beach.
As we sat there eating peanuts the gulls edged in ever so closer and finally just settled down on the sand, waiting patiently to see if we dropped anything. That was when I got the bright idea about how to get rid of some of the peanuts in the bottom of the container. For a while I just threw an occasional peanut out on the sand, but then the family blond actually had a bright idea. Why not toss them into the air and watch the seagulls try to grab them, she suggested. What a spectacular sight it was as they lazily floated in the gentle breeze, waiting for the next morsel to come their way. That was when I got an even brighter idea, proven that blond women may sometimes think of something, but man has a brilliant idea every few seconds. Grabbing the camera I waited until she lofted the next peanut into the air and took a photo of the action.
While it is difficult to tell from the photo, just to the left of the blue sky, and out of this picture, there are probably a dozen or more seagulls flying around. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why I hadn't captured any birds in the photo. Wondering how it could be that having focused exactly on the spot where she had been throwing the peanuts, I was so far off, I watched her throw another peanut. Instead of throwing it out where she had been tossing them, she just kind of got it up in the air right in front of us. "What are you doing?", I said, not in the nicest of tones. "Making it easy for you to take their picture", she replied, adding "If I throw it way out, it will be hard for you to see them." After I had given her a brief overview of the laws of optics and the relationship between the size of the sun and the planets, she threw another peanut and wonder of wonders, it was towards the gulls and not towards me.
While seeing the grains of sand trailing of the gull's feet makes for a pretty awesome photo, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I finally solved the problem by moving back behind her a dozen feet or so and told her to fire away. The results weren't bad.
If you just keep taking photos you're bound to improve, which was what I appeared to be doing.
Then at last, just when you don't think it can get any better, it does, as I managed to capture the gull with mouth open, in full flight just about to grab the peanut in mid air. Just goes to show you that if you put a camera in any fools hands and he takes enough pictures, one of them just may turn out to be a good shot. It's one of those things that I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't taken it myself.
It really wasn't any trick of the software, I really did take that photo and just to prove it, here is the uncropped original. It's hard to see that peanut, but it's there. Heck, even Linda was impressed, telling me that I had done good, but to please give some credit to her excellent peanut pitching performance. Wow, a blond woman with a couple of brain cells, it doesn't get any better than that, dear.
We had also taken a drive over to Gloria Farmacia, where Linda got things straightened out. Turned out they didn't have the one medication she wanted and the other was within a few dollars of what she had been paying in the states. Apparently the drug companies had tightened up their distribution because Americans were finding ways to avoid to paying the exorbitant prices the drug companies charged in the American market. Way to go you bunch of criminals on our ivory towers with the hundred million dollar salaries. Fix the problem by making the people in the poor countries pay the same exorbitant prices. Some people deserve the name, worthless slime, and they are certainly all included. I know it would never happen, but should some fluke of destiny put me alone near a pharmaceutical executive as he lay gasping for breath and he pleaded with me to save his life by giving him artificial respiration, my reply would be, give me a million dollars cash right now or I will walk away. I can hear him saying, but I don't have that much cash, I need help right now or I'll die. As I walked away from the swine taking his last few gasps of breath, I'd turn and say, neither did the millions around the world that couldn't pay for your overpriced drugs that would have saved their lives. Like I say, it will never happen, but...
While I may have strayed from the subject at hand just a bit, Linda was all excited as we came out of the store. She kept saying over and over, I got a refund from a Mexican store. Some people are hard to please while others, well, I'll just leave it there.
The bunch of garbage we had for supper, sure turned out to be quite a feast, with everything from baked Brie cheese to deep fried shrimp (thanks to Earl) and ending with chocolate brownies. If this is what these people want to get rid of, I love to see what they normally eat. I will say that this certainly does look like a well fed group, especially that fellow in red sitting in the back corner closest to the food table.
After the first pass, there appeared to be lots of food to take home, but I can assure you by the time it came to leave, it was more like the clean plate brigade around here. This photo shows only one brownie taken, yet some time later, they were fighting over the last piece. These people take their food very seriously.
At last the group dwindled, the circle kept getting smaller and smaller, until at finally everyone could put their feet up to the fire. These are the extra special times that make living this Life so wonderful. People coming into your life, seemingly out of thin air, a brief but grand time spent together, with the knowledge that some day in the future our paths will cross again and and we will take up exactly where we left off.
Back at the coach it was time for hot chocolate and the usual dessert, eaten with the knowledge that happiness truly is a state of mind.
Feb 4 - Sunday
We are starting to wind up our stay in Mexico with today and tomorrow being our last two full days. Since this was Sunday morning, the group planned to eat brunch at the park restaurant around 10 AM. That meant the early morning was taken up with the daily journal and when the appointed hour approached, off we went. As we walked along, we noticed people looking out towards the Sea of Cortez. It was an extremely low tide and we thought that was what everyone was looking at.
Nearing our destination we realized they were looking for another reason.
We never did find out who they are, or why they were on the beach, but it appeared they were training the horses. Just another of the things that come into your life which are simply unknowable, like trying to understand women and other deep mysteries for example. The restaurant was one hopping place this morning, probably partly due to it being the weekend and also to the fact the Sunday Brunch was only $6.50. It wasn't a huge layout of food, but what they had was quite good. I believe it was one of the few times in Life when I've seen Linda go back for seconds and return with a plate piled even higher than the first time. That's not a comment on how much she ate, but rather on how well she liked the food, plus the food was even somewhat, South Beach friendly.
It wasn't just a time of fun, it was also a time of celebration. Here is an excerpt from a post on the RVA forum that was written by one of the ladies in our group: "...Playa Bonita Park in Puerto Penasco. What a great place to be for our anniversary, just hope DH remembers! 22years on the 4th. so it's a maybe." That's what today was, and because someone in the group had read the post we all did. As to whether or not her husband had remembered, neither was saying. Here is a picture of the happy couple looking at the card and gift they received from the group.
As to whether or not Fuzz remembered it was their anniversary is not a subject I plan to bring up with Linda, as even after all these years she's a little touchy about one of ours. Seems like one morning, many, many years ago I woke up and found Linda already awake, an unusual occurrence in itself. Just barely roused, I was gently asked, "Do you know what day it is?" The early morning cobwebs still clouded my mind, but sweeping them away the best I could, I thought rapidly, but not fast enough. I knew our anniversary was either that day or the next, but at the moment I wasn't sure which day. Mistaking my panicked thought process for male ignorance, she, leaned over me and whispered, "It's the day after our anniversary", then throwing back the covers, bounded from bed, never speaking to me again that day. It was a lesson I have never forgotten and ever since that fateful I day have taken great pains to always remember exactly which day our anniversary was on. I could only hope the same type of thing wasn't repeating itself today for Fuzz.
One thing for sure, this is a great place to celebrate your anniversary with such awesome views of the ocean. Heck, its a place where virtually every view is a great view. Looking out the window of the restaurant, it was as pretty as the proverbial picture.
The beach is starting to attract more and more people and it appears Sunday may be a day when the local families come out to enjoy the beach along with all the tourists from the USA. The other side is that no matter how many people are on the beach at any given moment, the preponderance of them seem to be vendors. It's almost as if their is some established ratio of vendors to tourists and whenever more tourists appear, more vendors also magical appear, almost as if the very sand of the beach encases them, just as the chrysalis does the butterfly, then at the tread of the tourists feet, releasing them to capture the alluring nectar of the tourist's dollars.
Never intrusive, they just display their wares, whether a case of jewelry, pottery on a ropes suspended from their bodies or holding a pair of carved parrots. They walk up to you and stand, letting you make the first move, which almost always one of rejection. Most people indicate their lack of interest with a simply shake their head, others say no, and on occasional you hear a, no thank you. But once in a great while someone will express interest and then the vendor does all he or she can to make the sale. There is no sense of high pressure, just a persistence that oftentimes results in the striking of a bargain, leaving both parties satisfied. It is not the sales situation we are used to, but it the culture of the country we are in and one quickly learns to accept it. Of course, you don't have to accept it and whenever we see people who don't, we can only shake our heads and trust the miserable time they are creating for themselves won't translate into a tirade against traveling here, once they return to their home. It would be a shame if anyone was denied a chance at experiencing the same wonders we are just because a friend or acquaintance was unable to accept something different and consequently imparted their own self induced misery into the land, people and culture of Mexico as being the cause of their unhappiness.
It is a whole different world from what we are used to, but the people who's land this is, are also seeing a whole new world appear almost before their very eyes. We can see it too by just looking through the window into the future.
I suspect the vendors look and see something entirely different than we do. While we see the beach front which nature created disappearing and being replaced by the structures of man, they see the same beach, but what they see are more tourists on the beach, meaning more opportunities for them to earn money selling their wares.
Life in the RV Park is no different than anywhere else. There are always a few who don't think the rules apply to them. Take ATVer's for example. There are the majority of ATVer's, then there is also that small minority who actually obey the rules and are considerate of others. The ones pictured below were in the majority of those staying in the park. Not paying any attention to the rules whatsoever, then wondering why so many want to restrict their "right' to be loud, obnoxious and despoil the environment. All around us people were talking with great glee about how these people were stopped by park security and made to get off and walk their ATV's out of the park. Just because there are signs all through the park stating that riding ATV's in the park is strictly prohibited didn't mean anything to them, but then why should it, after all, they only saw it as applying to others, and not themselves.
Then there is the other side of the coin, people taking responsibility. The hope is that someday the younger generation will have the same sense of responsibility.
While we were walking around we spied the famous upside down boat which we had followed through the streets of town yesterday. Make sure you take a good look at it because, should you see it in your travels, don't follow it unless you want to see things that most people don't, for the driver will almost certainly be lost. I'm beginning to think their method of getting back to the east coast is simply to drive until they hit a large body of water, then if it's not the Atlantic, head in another direction and eventually they will find the right ocean. Life, it's what we make it.
It was also one of those days when the sunset simply demand that a picture be taken.
In a way you have to feel sorry for the sun. We get to see the orange glow playing on both water and sky. As for the sun, it has a view of the long haired, one eyed monsters lined up facing it, or maybe it simply looks at this as homage being paid to its magnificence. After all, these strange two legged creatures back thousands of years ago did the same thing, though the evolution to the metallic headed cyclops has developed only in the last fifty to a hundred years.
Today was also the Super Bowl, and the men gathered in several of the coaches to watch the game and enjoy themselves. One of the comments made during the course of the game wasn't about the action on the field or a critique of the commercials, it was a comment on where we were. As Richard so aptly put it, "I've watched the Super Bowl in a lot of places, but I never thought I'd be watching it in Mexico." My sentiments exactly.
While the men were enjoying the game, the women were also enjoying themselves, though from the look of it, they may have been enjoying what they were doing just a little too much.
Whether it was a game the RVA women were engaged in or not, whatever it was, it was sure different, as you can see from a couple of the losers shown here. Unfortunately by the time the the game was over none of the participants was in any condition to remember what the game was about in the first place. While it was never ascertained if there was a winner, the ladies were in unanimous agreement that playing the game had sure been great fun.
Coming up with an ingenious solution in the absence of an actual winner, they decided to declare all the entrants, winners and celebrate with a joint toast. (Please note that in some cases look-a-like stand ins were used to substitute for the actual participants as they couldn't), [stand that is].
Back to one of the RVs went the ladies, and out came the dominoes and more of the ever present liquid refreshments. As you can tell from this photo, while the men may have taken the opportunity to glance at an opponents tiles, the women were into glancing at their opponents glasses. The unfathomable female mind, not demystified, but insight obtained.
Sometimes things happen that we wish hadn't, but far more often there are times when we wonder how we could have been so lucky. This was a Super day in far more ways than we could have ever imagined just three weeks ago. When you hear the music start to play, that when you need to start to sway, because today proved once again that Life isn't a dress rehearsal, it's meant to be lived.
Feb 5 - Monday
Our last full day in Puerto Penasco was ushered in with yet another shrimp and asparagus omelet. As we were eating the park's refuse truck was making its daily rounds. Now please believe me, there is no unconscious connection either suggested or implied between the delicious meal Linda prepared and the appearance of the garbage truck. It's just that in their own way, each reminds us of how pleasant our stay at Playa Bonita has been. Linda's food speaks for itself, but the trash truck also speaks volumes, and that's for the park. Playa Bonita is very clean and with the security personnel ever present, it gives you the feeling of serenity accompanied with a sense of security.
A while later, at 10 o'clock, the group gathered and the line of vehicles headed out to the Old Port area as I made sure the upside down boat was in line behind and not in front of us. The purpose of this little caravan was the procurement of larger quantities of shrimp to take back to the states. The intelligence garnered around the park and also based on some of our group members past trips to Puerto Penasco was that the best prices were to be had from the "Three Boys" fish and shrimp sellers. They were located about half way down the market area and as we walked past the stalls of the other sellers, the cries rang out trying to entice us to stop. It was all to no avail as our group would not be waylaid by their inducements, well larded with flattery. Before long we were crowded into the Three Boys stall, listening to the bargaining going on between our chief negotiator and the seller, all the while deciding how much and which sizes of shrimp each of us wanted. Linda and I ended up buying 10 pounds of large shrimp, one pound of colossal shrimp, two pounds of flounder, plus another bunch of asparagus.
Some time after striking the bargain, our chief negotiator brought out his digital scale to check the weights. We found it intriguing that as soon as he showed the seller what it was, the seller decided that he would not use his scales, and that ours would be good enough. But just like the magician in front of his audience, a little misdirection and the buyer is sometimes looking in the wrong direction.
Still, his price was most definitely lower than the others and we still feel we came out ahead, just not as far ahead as we had thought we had at the time.
Colossal is as colossal does, but not if it isn't in the bag. Everyone who bought the colossal shrimp concluded it was mix of colossal, jumbo and large. Looking at the cooler you see only colossal shrimp. As for what lurks under the top layer, only the shadow knows, but then again, since the Three Boys colossal's were $6 when the others were selling the smaller jumbos for $7, what should we have expected. I'll bet they told some pretty good stories that night about the bunch of Americans who bargained hard and had their own digital scale, but never paid attention to what went into the bag. The adventure of shopping in Mexico, where we buy a few times a year and they sell many times a day.
In the final analysis the best price does not always mean the best quality. There has to be a way of underselling your competition and while it may be that you were sharper at buying from the shrimp boat, it may also be that the sorting of your shrimp to size may not be 100% efficient. I will say that we may have paid a bit more at the "Cowboy" a couple of days ago, but all his shrimp were the same size. If the group goes back to the "Three Boys" next year, we plan on asking a number of questions to find out just what each of his sizes mean, and then watching very closely as the shrimp are bagged to make sure all the shrimp we buy are indeed that size.
Back at the coach, we washed and repackaged the shrimp into smaller bags, counting them out so we had eight in each package. The ten pounds yielded 20 bags making them 16 count shrimp, using the sizing term we are more accustomed to seeing.
After the seafood was repackaged, we took a drive over to Cholla Bay, wanting to check out the Reef RV Park and also some of the houses and condo's. It was different to say the least, but the most differentest thing of all was the cell phone tower. When we lived in Northern California we were used to seeing towers in the Sierra Mountains disguised as pine trees, but how do you disguise a tower in the middle of the desert where there are no trees, especially when the tower is very tall and sits on the highest hill around to boot. Hey, for all I know it could have been perched atop boot hill. Maybe the designer had a picture in his mind of what Cholla Bay looked like, because it does sound like a tropical paradise, but however the design was arrived at, this is what it looked like.
But to our way of thinking, it was even better on the opposite side of the park where a very long stretch of beach is available for boondocking at $5 per night. We drove down the boondocking beach and except for one small area, it was all very hard packed sand, which shouldn't cause any problems as long as you were careful. We could see several spots where it looked like people had gotten stuck, but it was in areas where common sense says not to drive. The park is somewhat isolated and here is a view taken from the sand road behind it. Just be aware that all roads in this area are hard packed sand.
After all this weeks excitement you would think a bunch of old guys like the RVA group would be done for the day, but how wrong you would be. When Virgil was on the fishing trip, he got to talking to the Captain and had arranged for a sunset cruise for tonight. We were to furnish the food and $20 per head, the captain would take us out on the bay for two hours which included all the margaritas we could drink. The actual cruise was two hours with the meal also being two hours while moored at the dock. Add in $2 for shore car security ("for $2 I will watch your car so it does not get scratched") plus a $5 tip for the great time we had, and it made for a most memorable evening. We weren't even down the gangway to the boat, which was a covered catamaran, when we ran into our first hint of just what a neat night it was going to be.
Once on board the boat, it didn't take long for the real party animals to come out of their disguises as mild mannered RVAer's. The first words we heard when we saw the initial tray of margaritas appear was a female voice saying, "What do you mean? This is not for you, this is for Mike and me, get your own." And since the photo shows that Mike already has his in his hand, maybe the rest are for Linda (That's the other Linda, not my Linda).
Even without any organization this group managed to have all the appetizers we could want. Of course as you can see in this photo, the two blond Linda's were the leaders of the chow hound pack. Whoa, lets back up just a second to the last photo. Wasn't that one of these same Linda's in the picture with all the drinks? Is it possible the real wonder woman is in our midst?
Soon the meat was grilled, and the perfect accompaniments were set out for the eating. As you can see by the hungry horde mobbing the serving table, after two weeks of pot luck meals there were quit a few addicts among the RVA group. And looking at the reach of some of these characters, they may have experienced growth in several areas of their anatomies these past few weeks.
Just looking around at the all the full plates and smiling faces, it was easy to see that this was "the" place to be.
One of the fun things that a new camera with a telephoto lens allows, is the ability to take candid pictures. I'll let you decide on what might be going through the minds of the various subjects of these photos.
The amazing thing is that all this took place not with a lot of planning, but with complete spontaneity. As we heard over and over during the trip, "If we'd have tried to plan this, it never would never have been as much fun." Things happen for a reason, it's our job to be recognize them and be ready when they do. Finally with 4:30 approaching, the Captain cast off the lines and set sail, or set motors to be accurate, for the high seas. What a different view we had than what we were used to. Passing by the RV park we could even pick out our coach, seeing the dark roof line and the MotoSat dish pointing skyward.
We never did figure exactly what this boat was doing. Some thought maybe he was chumming, others thought he was the official Puerto Penasco sea bird feeder and still others, which included the real party animals, said, what boat?
As the sun edged ever closer to the water, everyone began migrating towards the bow to hopefully take the perfect picture. As we were busily snapping away, the blast of our ship's horn startled us and looking off to the port side (left for the landlubbers and blonds) a small sailboat could be seen heading on a path which would take it directly across our bow. The cry went up trying to get it to turn because it would ruin everyones sunset photos. I took it as the opportunity to take one of those more unusual photos. Waiting until just the perfect moment to take the picture. What do you think?
When the sun finally dipped below the horizon, the Captain changed course and we began the return trip to Old Port. As the natural light of the sun continued to dim, the music came up and the dancers came out. As always the real party animals led the way and I'll simply let the photo speak for itself.
We had spent the past two weeks with the most wonderful group of people, simply because we can. Earlier in the evening someone had suggested that a group picture was in order and soon the Captain was festooned with three cameras around his neck, while beside him sat a lawn chair with a half dozen more. The group picture taking session was on, I liked the comment" This has to be the longest time I have ever smiled in my life". It was a fitting commentary on the picture taking session, the entire night, and our couple of weeks with the RVA group. It's been quite some time since I last spoke of the guide who accompanies us on our travels. She had definitely been with us over the past several months, she's a great guide all you have to do is look and she'll be there. In case you don't know her, her name is Sara N. Dippity .
May we discover the link with each other. And experience the connection of being human. The joy of life. The spirit of individuality. The adventure that goes on and on.
Feb 6 - Tuesday
Late last night there occurred an incident in the campground that deserves mention. It seems that one of the RV's in our group was TP'ed. For anyone who, in even the slightest way, might know something about the member of our group named Richard, it wouldn't take two guesses to know who the recipient was. It's the same Richard, who conned Linda and I into joining this band of misfits in the first place. In this case Richard got what he deserved because as everyone knows, in Life you sometimes run across special people, and Richard is definitely one of them, in a good way that is.
Linda and I had been enjoying a little peace and quiet after returning from the sunset cruise when a gentle knock sounded on the door. It was the normally quiet and shy Sandy, with an offer I just couldn't refuse. Seems she had this idea that in order to show Richard just what a great time we all had during the past week, we should TP his RV. She had asked a number of the other people and they seemed to prefer not only being 60, but also acting like it. At our door she found someone else who, like her, was 60 going on 16. I'm sure Linda was somewhat confused by my running back to the bathroom and grabbing a roll of Scott's single ply, septic system approved toilet paper, then dashing out the door, though it didn't take long for her to follow. Or maybe it was the vacuum Sandy and I created, which simply sucked her along.
It turned out that I had responded so quickly, Sandy didn't even have any toilet paper with her, but since I had grabbed ours before my mad dash out the door, Richard's rear was soon festooned with white banners. Naturally it wasn't as easy as it sounds, mostly due to our use of black tank friendly paper. What's designed to break apart easily in the black tank of the RV is not intended to be used to TP the outside of that same RV. When you had a couple of teens on a mission like Sandy and I were, it wasn't hard to overcome any obstacles which cropped up. Didn't take us long to figure out the right way to do things, though it was a little ragged at first. With the back decorated in a fashion which would have rivaled one of Christian Dior's famous gowns, we decided to become more daring and paper Richard's front.
Since the back of the coach had been dark, we had made the assumption that the RV's occupants, being ancient, retired codgers, had called it quits for the night, you know, like most old folks with a long drive drive ahead of them tomorrow would do. Imagine my surprise when, trying to tie a bow on the door handle, I saw the shadow of movement inside. E gads, they were both still up. What is the world coming to when the geriatric set doesn't go to bed at a decent hour? It was as we were using the last last sheets on the windshield wipers that a voice came over a loudspeaker, "Park security to row 7". which was the row our group was parked on. The next second the drivers side window popped open and Richard looked out, chuckling. It was his turn to play the joke back on us, as the announcement had been him using the PA system on his CB radio.
We thought the front of the coach looked pretty sharp with its streamers and all.
Here's the mug shot, I mean snapshot, of the culprits, including our ringleader, Sandy. How could these old people have done something that only teenagers do?
When Richard finally emerged from the RV to see what damage had been done, he was armed and ready for retaliation. It proved to be just an idle threat, though just for the moment, fear was the order of the day and as you can see, Sandy is pointing to me saying Bob was the one who did it. Soon we were joined by everyone in our group who was still up and I suspect it was to see what all the racket was about. It was one of those moments that someday will be recalled for no good reason other than know that it was one of those precious moments when we truly did live Life.
In the morning, the story was retold as the various RV's prepared to pull out and head back north. We were returning in two groups, the first leaving at 9AM and the second at 10AM. The 10 AM group were those who were planning on spending the night at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, just a few miles north of the border, while the other group was off to California. Just as the group had come together, molding and fusing into something special, so was the act of departing. Whether it was Mike and Richard checking the air in Earl's tires, or Kathy giving us a package of the sweet corn dessert from last night, the feeling of togetherness was all about us./p>
At last, it was our group's turn to leave what we had come to realize was very special place. The tight rows did not seem to be nearly as narrow this morning, though, we did decide to hookup in the more open area near the office. As we passed through the Playa Bonita complex arches for the final time we saw the sign saying Adios Amigos, which spoke volumes about our life these past few days. It would be good to be back in the USA again, but yet, it would have been just as good to have stayed here for several more weeks. I think you may be getting the idea of what our plans are for next year, because we can assure you that we will be heading back to Puerto Penasco again, in late January of next year.
As luck would have it, when the caravan had formed up, we found ourselves behind the rolling roll of toilet paper, aka Richard and Patsy. Their RV is an Airstream Landyacht, and what with all the gay, white streamers billowing from its top, it did, in a manner of speaking, look like a brightly painted old schooner plowing through the seas.
When we had arrived our caravan leaders had taken us through the older section of town then out across the sand road. Leaving we were going to be taking the new route which, while it didn't involve any sand roads and was nicely paved, also had a down side, Stop Signs. Not just a few stop signs, rather nearly a dozen of those signs which looked just like the ones in the States, but instead of displaying the word STOP, said ALTO instead. The other thing was that they were not spaced out over the entire route back to the main road, but rather there was one for each of the last ten blocks, all in a row. Also we were in Mexico where the drivers come barreling up to the ALTO signs watching to see if you flinch and touch the breaks, in which case they don't stop but proceed through right in front of you. Needless to say, it took our little caravan a little while to negotiate that stretch of road and as we drove, Linda changed from saying there's a car heading towards us, to just yelling out "watch out". It served its purpose and we made it through with nary a scratch. The joys of Mexico are everywhere, you just have to see them that way.
Heading North on Hwy 8, we once again encountered the now familiar Topes, or speed bumps, which in away had set the tone for our stay in Mexico, to slow down, enjoy and take your time. Leaving the town behind our speed began to pick up, as we began the almost imperceptible transition from the slow, unhurried life to the rush, rush American way. It was then that we noticed something unusual for this climate. It appeared there were large snow flakes in the air. I turned to Linda and said, "Do you see what I see?", and she laughing replied, "It looks like Richard's RV has a bad case of dandruff". The septic safe, single ply Scott's toilet paper was doing its thing, and individual sheets were breaking off in the wind and fluttering back towards us. We soon found ourselves laughing and pointing out "there's one" quickly followed by "and there's another one". It looked like the Landyacht was shedding sails getting ready to tack in another direction.
Not many kilometers later Richard suddenly pulled out of line and off to the side of the road. Of course, our first thought was to stop and see if we could help, but that was immediately replaced of the thought that if we kept on going we might finally be rid of him. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, we decided to stop, while at the same time, some distance ahead, the rest of the group did the same thing. We were all connected through CB's and hand held radios, and it wasn't long before Richard's voice came over the air indicating he was having an air problem. Soon he was crawling under his coach then reported the problem seemed to have cleared itself up and we were once again on our way.
Later, we learned Richard and Patsy had been concerned they would have to leave their RV broken down along a Mexican highway. Meanwhile, the rest of the group had also first looked upon it just as we did, as a change to finally get rid of Richard but then they too had second thoughts. It came out later that some of those second thoughts may have been more along the line of how do we take Patsy and leave Richard, but unfortunately it was not to be. However, hope springs eternal and there is always next year. Almost before we knew it, we were passing through the outskirts of Sonoyta, the town that is located just a few kilometers south of the border, where we noticed a vendor selling something we had not seen before on this trip.
It was amazing what just a week in Mexico had done for our perception of driving in Mexico. A week ago today, when we had our first taste of driving in Mexico, which was through the narrow streets of this town, it hadn't been with the utmost confidence, and now, just a week later, things seemed so much different. The streets were still narrow, but for some reason, they were far less intimidating. I wonder what spending a few months in Mexico would have on my outlook towards life. Today, as I approached the crosswalk where I almost hit the police officer, only brought a smile to my face.
One thing we would have liked to have been able to buy were the huge, bright red strawberries this street vendor was selling. Unfortunately fresh fruits and vegetables were on the do not bring back list, so we passed him by.
If I were to say we weren't nervous about crossing the border, I wouldn't be speaking about the people in our coach. The last hundred meters to the border inspection station was very slow going, what with the five RV's in front of us and all the while we kept wondering what questions are being asked. While not dreading our turn, we certainly were not welcoming it, but all the same, we couldn't wait to get it over. At last we realized, hey this is our country we are coming back to, what in the world do we have to worry about.
The actual inspection was very brief, I was only asked how many people were in the RV, do I own it, am I an American citizen, how long was I in Mexico, and did I buy anything in Mexico. The first four were easy, the last one, I started to say we had bought a few tourist items when the female agent interrupted me and rattled off a long list of things, prefacing the list with the phase, "Did you buy any...". Upon my simple answer of "no Ma'am", she asked to see the passenger. Linda stood, whereupon she was asked if she was an American citizen. Hearing she was, the agent waved us on through. The good part was that it was so easy. The even better part was that we'd worried so much about it that we probably sweated off at least two pounds apiece.
As could be expected, there is always one in every group who just has to not pay attention to the rules. In our case it was Virgil, he of the three grande margarita's of a few nights ago. He now knows how to answer the questions after being taken aside to find out just why he answered the question about did you have any alcoholic beverages aboard with a laughing, "Hell yes,", dug himself into a deep hole. Then to the follow up question of how much, his, "I don't know, but it's a bunch", was most definitely not the correct answer. He was told to pull out of line and wait. He did, but not in the right place. We took a final photo of him when we passed his coach to send to his children, just in case his next stop turned out to be Guantanamo. Fortunately things got sorted out, Virgil learned that, "No Ma'am, I don't" was a much better way to answer the border agents questions, which he will certainly do next time, and before long he had rejoined the caravan.
The town, if what is just across the border can be called a town, is Lukeville, AZ and we used its large parking lot to reform our caravan while we waited for Virgil to come clean.
Since we were back in the states, we had to switch from thinking in kilometers to once again thinking in miles, so 5 miles up the road we stopped at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, most of the group planning on spending only one night, while we planned to stay through Saturday night. The first order of business when we arrived was to fill our water tanks, a task that was accomplished by using of both our water hoses, our water thief, plus a bungee cord and a hose clamp borrowed from Richard. It was ingenious enough that gathered a gaggle of sightseers.
As is the case when your home has wheels, the view out our front window was once again different from anything we have experienced.
The most amazing thing was what we had for dinner. Here we were, in the Sonoran Desert, and the menu called for grilled marinated shrimp, sweet potato salad and cole slaw, simply because Linda couldn't wait to sink her teeth into those shrimp we had bought. She was also excited because one of the couples in the group had mentioned they needed to lose some weight and inquired how we managed to stay so thin looking, she wanted them to see one of our regular meals. And no, I hadn't eaten off the plate, it's just that paper plates are heck for me to plate food on and not have it come out looking like the top of a garbage can.
As the sun crept lower in the sky, though technically it's the mountains to the west rose up towards the sun but that's a hard concept to understand, something magic seemed to be happening to the desert floor and in the mountains to the east.
Last night we watched the sun set while out on the Sea of Cortez, tonight it was while in the Sonoran Desert. Life is so marvelous, just an adventure that goes on and on.
Feb 7 - Wednesday
After all the things which went during the past week, including the fun of yesterday, today was one of those days that proved positively sedate in comparison. No exciting midnight marauders roaming the park, no incidents at the international border, in fact it was so bad that both of us took an afternoon siesta for the first time in weeks. Maybe I should look at the good side and say that meant we were finally getting into Mexican, slow swing of things, albeit a little late.
Linda and I had teased each other about our decompression stop, but that is exactly what this looked like our days at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument were going to be. While today should have been a day to sleep in, we found ourselves up at an early hour, more from self preservation than a desire to start the day. For two weeks we have projected a polished professional image to this collection of ragtag ragamuffins, who we knew as the RVAer's and we sure didn't want to blow it on our last day with them. Hence we were up at an early hour just in case any of them should decide to pull out with the early morning sun. We should have known better after having shared so many evenings with them, but since appearances are everything, we were definitely on our best behavior.
Eventually, the RV's began to leave, the goodbyes were said and it was just down to a couple of coaches. Soon everyone but Fuzz & Carol, the Vermonters, who were planning on staying another day to see all the sights, and Richard The Infamous had left. Richard is a man who can make the simplest thing into the most gargantuan of Rube Goldberg contraptions, so it was no wonder that his exit was made with much ado about something, the something being the fact that his was anything but simple. I'm sure you've heard of the different hitches, the half hitch and the full hitch for example. Well Richard set a new standard for the half hitch. Seems like when he hooked his CRV up to the coach, he forgot something, which was to check the integrity of the ball hitch. Fortunately before he pulled out he gave it a good shake and discovered the large nut which holds the ball on had fallen off. All this from a man who purportedly rose to the highest levels of his company's manufacturing division based on his near maniacal pursuit of plant maintenance. As they pulled out, Richard captaining the Landyacht and Patsy dutifully following, driving the CRV, she commented, "we do this a lot." I'll leave it up to you, dear reader, to determine just exactly she meant by the use of the word 'this'.
Not that the Texas twosome was disappearing from our lives for long, because both Richard and Patsy, plus Mike and Linda will also be with us at the Gypsy Journal Rally next week in Casa Grande. Who knows what tales of adventure we will be hearing about their travels by then. The final goodbyes said, I worked at not falling further behind on the daily journal while Linda drove down to Lukeville to do some shopping. The Gringo Pass store in Lukeville proved to be quite a find. Just north of the border on the west side of the road it has an wide selection of groceries, plus extensive meat and produce departments.
Linda was not only quite pleasantly surprised by the large selection and high quality of the produce, but the prices were also very reasonable. If the people who owned this market would set up in Quartzsite, the Roadrunner and the General Store would both quickly be history. Among Linda's "finds" were ripe avocados at 45 cents each, fresh green chilies at $1.09 per pound and an absolutely perfect papaya for 59 cents a pound. It doesn't get better than this! Or at least we have not found where it does, plus we continue to be amazed at what we discover in our travels.
It was a rather strange store because one side of it contained dozens and dozens of post office boxes, yet the post office was in another location. She never did figure out exactly why they were there and it looks like it will be another of those unsolvable mysteries we happen across in our travels.
When Linda was there on a Wednesday morning, there were just a couple of other customers in the store, yet from the quality and amount of products it is obvious that they must be quite busy at times. Located just a few hundred feet from the border it is an excellent spot to stop for those last minute items before going into Mexico or those items you have been waiting to buy when you come back across the border from Mexico.
At the market Linda had bought some thin sliced round steak which we marinated and grilled for supper. Sometimes things don't always go the way you plan and fortunately it had waited until after our Mexican trip, because this cut of meat really needed to have been braised, as it had come out a little on the chewy side, although it was tasty. Looking at the good side of things, we only ate half of it, so with a little, or perhaps a lot, of stove top cooking, the left overs should be much better. The other thing was, that by the time dinner was ready, the sun had long since dipped below the western mountains. As we sat and busily chewed away, the bugs, which had been totally absent during the heat and bright sun of the daylight hours, came out with a vengeance. The way our hands were thrashing, about given the fact they were both holding knives and forks, it was lucky we didn't end up with multiple stab wounds and cuts. No more evening meals out on the patio for us.
Every evening at 7:00 there is a program in the amphitheater and we decided to go again tonight even though we had attended last night. It's not an exaggeration to say that last nights program, a talk about bats, was by far the most poorly organized and ineptly presented program we have ever seen at a National Park or Monument. In fairness to the many outstanding volunteers, the attempted presentation was made by a college intern. It almost appeared that she looked at this assignment as an opportunity to party rather than prepare for working in the real world. The fact she said she was from Chico State, which at one time had the reputation as the No. 1 party school in the US, only seemed to further lessen any credence in her somewhat less than scintillating presentation.
Tonights program more than restored our faith in the nations college students, because it was given by another intern who did an outstanding job. The fact that it was about the rocks and geology of the park scored points right off and the information she provided, served to whet our appetites to do some exploring over the next few days.
Earlier we had asked Fuzz and Carole over so Fuzz could receive his initial indoctrination into the intricacies of Mexican Train. We must have played a half dozen or more games with the men once again proving their innate superiority over the fair, yet weaker sex. Later Linda and I enjoyed chocolate pudding, sugar free of course, and excitedly discussed which hikes (me), or which hike (her) we would be taking tomorrow. After several moments of discussion it was determined we would only be taking one hike and further discussion was closed. Maybe it would have been better if I'd have let her win a game of Mexican Train, but regardless, we once again closed another chapter in our Life.
Feb 8 - Thursday
One of the things Linda bought at the Gringo Pass store yesterday was a dozen eggs. As we have continued to travel from state to state, the wide variation in the price of eggs and milk still amazes us. In some states the milk is expensive while eggs are very attractively priced, then we move into a neighboring state and the prices may be somewhat similar, or completely reversed. In Arizona it is the milk which is a good buy, while the eggs are relatively high priced. Just one of the things you never think about, unless your house has wheels.
Not long after we had devoured the scrambled eggs with onions, green peppers and sun dried tomatoes, along with a generous portion of fresh papaya, we began preparing for the days expedition. The Monument has a number of trails and roads, some of which are off limits due to the close proximity of the park to the border, but this still leaves many interesting places to visit and today we planned to take the 4.5 mile round trip hike from the campground out to the Victoria Mine site. One thing that the trail boss was determined to take was enough water, especially after what happened on our last hot weather hike, the fossil fish death march, when she was taken ill. (I know if I would attempt to describe all the gruesome details, it would never get past the editor)
Today wasn't a day for water bottles, because we would both be wearing camelbacks to ensure proper hydration, or at least that's what the ads tell you and the family blond agrees with their statements. Throw in a couple of low fat mozzarella cheese sticks and she had us ready to tackle anything up to and including a cross Sahara trek. The trail head was easy to find, being located at the lower end of the campground, and after signing in on the trail register, we were off with Linda in the lead. It wasn't long afterward when she took a detour off the trail and stopped under a very large Saguaro.
I later learned the purpose of this little side trip was to show just how tall these cactus can grow, which is obviously pretty tall. (The books say they can reach upwards of 50 feet, though this one was more on the order of 30-35 feet.) The trail is just a rough path out through the desert that follows the rolling terrain, allowing for a wide vista as we topped the crests and a totally different view down in the washes. The most interesting thing to me was how the vegetation changed, depending upon where you were. North slopes and south slopes were different, as well as the crests and the washes. While I took all this in, Linda was looking for other things.
I guess my way of looking at nature is all distorted. I thought that when you go to a National Monument that has the word 'Cactus' in its name, that cactus is what you look for. Obviously I was mistaken, it's the rocks that we are here to look at. You'd think after spending nearly 40 years with this woman I would have these simple things figured out, guess it just means that I'm a slow learner. At least I don't have to worry about lugging all those rocks back, because this is pick up and touch but do not take land. All my comments about rocks and look, but don't take must have gotten Linda worried, because for the next 15 minutes I was constantly hearing, "Look, take a photo of that cactus", or "Look how pretty those mountains are, that'd make a good picture." I wasn't sure whether all this was because I had made her feel guilty for spending so much hunting for rocks, other just a way to distract me so she could pocket a few pebbles, and so I came up with my own ingenious plan. Since she was chattering away far more than actually paying attention to what I was doing, I would just point the camera, pause a few seconds, make a clicking sound with my tongue and put the camera away. Worked for her, worked for me, plus she got to do what ever it was she was distracting me to do, though I bet it was just to be able to look at more rocks with out me harassing her.
I will admit that using those rock seeking, roving eyes of hers, she spotted far more things of interest along the trail than I did. Here I am, the person who for years raised cactus as a hobby, and she's the first one to spot each new type during our walk. Of course her position as the expeditions leader and guide may have had something to do with it. Here she's pointing out a barrel cactus, the kind they show the movie hero chopping in half and squeezing out water to keep from dying of thirst.
One other thing which always gets me is how He Man manages to extract the water from the cactus, just picking it up by his hands. Now take a close look at that mass of spines, stickers, needles, and daggers and then explain to me how anyone could grab hold of one of these and not end up screaming and yelling in pain. None of these thoughts slowed down Linda, who was as good as her word about leading us down the right path and almost before we knew it, the ruins of the Victoria Mine appeared before us. One of the volunteers at the visitor center had mentioned to us that there wasn't much to see at the mine, and she was right on.
By the way, the rock structure was not even part of the mine, rather it was a store that served the miners in the area. The land around the store is pockmarked with pits, many of them fenced off with barbed wire, neat to explore, but not much to see. Linda, the ever vigilant one, did spy and enormous organ pipe cactus and walking over to it struck one of her poses that told me I had better take a picture of this.
It seems like the more time we spend in a place the less we know about it, and that was certainly the case here. When we first saw this cactus we didn't have a clue as to what it was, but figured that we would find out later, which we actually did, learning it is a hedgehog cactus.
As we had walked along we would intermittently see small lizards running off in front of us. The return trip from the mine was with the sun directly overhead and the heat of the day surrounding us, which found us stopping more often to rest. I don't think we were the only creatures of the desert who were seeking shade, as our lizard friends seemed to have disappeared. Then at one stop Linda noticed movement in the rocks just a few feet from us and in the next moment a head poked out. I don't know if this was one of our lizard friends who had accompanied us earlier and now was just checking to see if we were alright or it was a stranger startled by our appearance and thinking what are those stupid giant lizards doing out in the sun, don't they know it is a lot cooler in the shade. Whatever was going through his mind, he hung around long enough for me to take his picture. I think it is amazing how closely his coloration matches that of the rock he is under.
Back at the coach we found ourselves much more worn out than we realized. Everybody talks about how harsh and unforgiving the desert is and it is amazing how even a few hours out in it, when you are prepared like we were, can still be an exhausting experience. It wasn't long before the back of the coach was filled with a gentle rumbling sound, not of the Cumins Diesel but but of a loudly snoring blond. Meanwhile the front of the coach hummed, not with the sound of the generator, rather with the sounds of the dozing bald Bob. Amazingly we both recovered quite quickly and decided that since we had spent the morning out among the cacti, we'd attend an afternoon patio talk on those same succulents finding that we learned more in that half hour that we'd learned spending several hours reading books. Afterwards we asked the interpretative volunteer what her background was because she did such a great job. We were surprised to hear she had been an electron microscopist who spent her career in a small windowless room. She said she just loves having the opportunity to be outdoors and it really showed in her enthusiasm and way she shared her recently gained knowledge of the desert, proving you don't have to be an expert in a subject to be very effective in helping others learn more about our parks. You just have to love what you're doing. Being gluttons for punishment we ended the afternoon by taking the 1/2 mile nature trail around the visitor center and thus combined what we had just learned with actually observing the plants which gave us a much better appreciation of the plant life in the Sonoran desert. I think Linda's personal favorite was the aptly named teddy bear chollola, though for some reason she didn't seem to want to cuddle up to it.
Just before dinner I visited briefly with our neighbors, who also live in a 2006 Endeavor, having been out for 11 months. Dinner was the round steak from the other night cooked a little differently. Linda simmered it with some water for about an hour and converted it from a very flavorable but difficult to chew piece of meat into a very flavorable easily cut with a folk, dining delight. That woman sure has a way around the kitchen and has the old saying 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach' down to a tee. We followed our usual pattern and attended the evening program which was about the park's 'Sleeping Beauties'. We learned that no rain princess is going to kiss the frog in the dried up pond his year, but next year if it rains the parks wildflowers should once again emerge. Back at the coach all the day's activities and my brief catnap caught up with me and I headed off to bed without dessert. I think from the way Linda looked at me when she asked if I wanted dessert and I said no, she thought something might be wrong with me. She on the other hand was not to be denied and downed a dish of chocolate pudding along with a piece of chocolate zucchini cake. In our nearly 40 years together, I've never seen her decline dessert and she sure wasn't planning on starting now. Today reminded us of our annual vacations of old, when we would have done these same things we did today, since vacations were not times of relaxation but of hard work. It looks like its going to take a few days to get out of the go go pattern we picked down in Mexico, but I am sure we can handle it.
Feb 9 - Friday
Sometimes you plan to do things and for some reason it just doesn't work out the way you plan. That was partly why, early this morning, I was outside digging through the boxes down under the coach where we store things, looking for tissues. Some time ago we had taken that drive to Yuma which ended up with our buying the new camera, but which was also replete with volume buying at a Sam's Club. Somewhere, up in the coach were several boxes of tissues that Linda had hid so well that it would probably take a dozen customs agents an entire day and a major disassembling of the coach to find. After searching for a while, I had simply given up and taken what I had imagined would be the far easier route of finding the mother load we had stored down in one of the coach's bays.
At our old house we had simple converted our unused third bathroom into a storage area and filled it with all these types of economical purchases. That, however, is not the way it works when your home has wheels. I knew those eight or so boxes were down there somewhere, and just because I had already managed to really whack the back of my head on the bottom of the slide was no reason to call off the search. Eventually Linda came to my rescue, having looked at the master list of what's where, and yelling down that they were in box number 43. Bet you can already guess where it was, smack dab in the middle, which meant everything had to come out to get to it. I did make sure and bring a couple of extras up to make it easier for the next time. Imagine my surprise, when opening a cabinet to store them in, I found myself looking at the ones we had previously stashed. Sometimes a day begins on a positive note, I'll just say that today mine started. Linda, on the other hand was quite happy, having the tissues she needed at hand once again, plus knowing now where the extras were stored.
I think Linda may have been giving me a not so subtle hint about what the rest of the morning held when she fixed our eggs with nopalitos this morning. I should have guessed that with cactus in our eggs, there was about to be more cactus in our future. Before long before she was in her best tour guide form, decked out with hat, water bottles and walking stick, asking me if I was ready to go. Realizing that a, "Just give me a minute", was far better for my health than "What are you talking about." I chose the former for my reply. A few ticks of the clock and numerous impatient taps of her foot later, we were heading off towards the Desert View Trail.
We found this trail to be similar yet different from the others we had hiked. From the name of it, Desert View Trail, it was easy to guess what we would see, yet on the other hand every trail we had walked on had been through the desert, so what could it be that would make the views from this trail different. As we were soon to find out, this trail was located much closer to a south facing slope of the mountains and thus had very pretty views of the organ pipe cactus.>
But this trail was far more than just those namesake cactus, and as we walked along our tour guide pointed out several other types of cactus we hadn't seen before. The cactus patio talk we had attended yesterday had obviously sunk in, at least where Linda was concerned. I on the other hand was apparently still in a semi fog as a result of this mornings knock on the head. One of the things that we had learned from Joyce, the interpretive volunteer who had given the patio talk, was that the fact there had been recent rains would mean the ocotilla would be leafing out within the next week. The sharp eyed blond, at one point, grabbed my arm and gestured towards a bunch of cactus exclaiming, "Look, look", not to be facetious, but everywhere I looked seemed to look just like everywhere else I looked, a desert full of cactus. Finally dragging me off the trail, she pointed to a ocotilla which was leafing out.
There is one plant that Linda obviously loves more than any other and while she really seems to enjoy the majesty of the giant saguaro cactus, her heart is captured by the teddy bear cholla. Sometimes I think she just wants to go throw her arms around them and give them a big hug. You will notice the finger in the picture below seems to be almost the plant. Rest assured it is only a trick of the camera, as even a blond has enough brains not to touch these little darlings.
Continuing along the trail we soon found ourselves climbing higher and higher, eventually topping out on a hill up above the campground. It was a completely different perspective from what we had seen at any time up to this point. The other thing we found was a profusion of desert plants. Up here it appears everything comes together to make for near perfect growing conditions. Of course, being normal people we didn't take any photos of the many different plants, rather we took one looking down at the campground. Later as we walked down off the hill I commented to Linda that is was a shame that we hadn't taken any pictures of the plants. She told me I was welcome to walk back up and take some if I wanted. Guess those pictures will just have to wait until the next time we walk this trail.
The result of all this walking sure tired me out, but it seemed to only make Linda hungry. And hunger is something she is good at overcoming, so it wasn't long before the can opener was put to use and a large bowl of bean salad was soon under construction. As she was busy cooking, I took the opportunity to work on the web page, something I had not had too much success with lately, finding myself stuck in a 'two day behind' rut. Oh well, as long as I can keep close it won't be too bad. Linda on the other hand doesn't seem to have any problem staying ahead of the eating curve, or as she would put it, the cooking curve. And she was soon busy mixing up a chocolate zucchini cake to bake later when it was generator time (from 4-6 pm).
Sunset was as spectacular as always, with the saguaro exhibiting that beautiful orange glow. There is just something so special about them, and it has nothing to do with the fact that they were featured in so many of the cowboy shows and movies I saw as a youngster. Each seems to exude a personality that is all its own.
It was a day where we didn't do a whole lot, yet it was a day where we enjoyed what we did a whole lot. That's one of the things we've really come to enjoy about our life, the fact that we control what we do.
Feb 10 - Saturday
Our last full day at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument before driving up to Casa Grande for the Gypsy Journal Rally and breakfast was once again eggs with nopalitos, plus the the addition of some spinach and onions. Even though I seem to be able to eat the same food for a number of meals in a row, our oatmeal being a good example, Linda likes to vary things when she cooks. I can recall how, three or four years ago our mornings were almost always the exact same routine from the time we got up to the time we left for work. I wouldn't even say the morning, once a week, that I took the trash out to the curb, was a break in that routine, after all it was always the same day of the week. How different our mornings are now, with hardly two of them ever being the same. Sure, most mornings find me out working on the computer, sometimes working on the journal other times just meandering through cyberspace. However, there is no set time for when all this takes place, and most importantly, particularly from a stress standpoint, there is no clock counting the minutes off.
That we should not have our lives dependent on an inanimate, but ever present, time piece took some getting used to, but we now realize just what a chasm we crossed when time no longer mattered. The reason I write this is because a good friend of ours, and someone I used to tease about being 'the sister I never had' is the hospital suffering from the the combined effects if a mild heart attack and stoke brought on by a large blood clot which has lodged in her heart. Just months different in age, she is one of those people who is involved in anything and everything, which is one of the things that seems to trouble people about this lifestyle. "How can you give up all the things you are involved in?" they ask. Our answer is always the same, "It was easy, we just bought a motorhome and left." The result too, is almost always the same, a blank stare that, then a rejoinder to the effect that they could never do that. Some people are meant for this life and some aren't. I'm ever so thankful we were, but you know, some day there will be no more ticks of the clock and as that final infinitesimal movement is completed will our lasts thoughts be, "I should have...", or will they be "I'm glad I...."
The mental gymnastics occasioned by the use of the computer may serve to help exercise and sharpen the mind, but it is good old physical exercise which strengthens the body and so it wasn't long before our family tour leader was anxious to be off on another adventure. Maybe yesterdays hike had taken a toll on her, because today we were going to be using the Explorer for our foray along the upper Puerto Blanco Drive. A driving route is always more comfortable than walking, but the difference is that you miss so much. We did stop at the several roadside displays, but still, it is little more than a drive out into the desert with some pretty vistas. One thing that we found interesting was the picnic area at the end of the road where the ramadas were built using ococtilla stems for the roof. In the desert you have to use what is available and it is difficult to imagine what hardships the early settlers, especially the women and children, must have endured. This modern woman doesn't look like she is stressed in any way but then, all she has to do is look good and let her husband do all the work.
After the drive we arrived back at the coach, where we had a pleasant surprise when Bob & Marsha, the owners of the Endeavor parked down the road from us stopped by. It never ceases to amaze us how much in common we have with the people we meet on the road. They had bought their coach just a couple of months after we did, then had some of the same problems we did, including having a slide motor go out in addition to slide alignment problems. It was great fun trading helpful hints and finding out that just like us, their friends just did not understand how they could just walk away from all their connections and live on the road. It made us feel good as Bob pointed to our slogan on the coach and said, "We're here for the same reason you are, because we can." Those who can, do, those who wonder, don't.>
The remainder of the day passed quickly, as I managed to get two days worth of daily journal posts done and still find time to grill shrimp for dinner. Linda is going to be very much the enforcer of the 'shrimp twice a week rule", not only due to the fact those little crustaceans taste so good, but also for the fact they are taking up some very valuable space in her freezer. What makes it so bad is that it means she currently doesn't have any room for ice cream. Regarding the impending calamity that a length of time without ice cream portends can be compared with the timer on a bomb as it approaches the moment of contact closure and then finally detonates. One last surprise came as we were getting ready to follow up the meal with our nightly trek over to the amphitheater for the evening program, Linda discovered she had a hitchhiker on her shirt. Where it came from we could only guess, but perhaps it flew in the open car windows when we took todays drive.
Looking at that grasshopper brought to mind the lyrics of a song we have sung many times with our old friends from our former life, those same friends who remained behind while we ventured out into our new Life. Change a word here, a word there, and soon it takes on a new meaning, which we will leave you with on this glorious, warm, sunny, early February day.