Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: February 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yuma…A Visit Too Short


(Can you spot JoAnne in the photo?)

After breaking camp at our wonderful boondocking site near Borrego Springs we headed to Yuma. I needed to attend a business meeting in Phoenix. So, we decided to find a commercial campground where JoAnne could hang out while I drove our tow car to Phoenix for a couple of days. We ended up at Arizona Sands. It isn’t fancy, somewhat loud, but for this short stay, it suited our needs.

This was our first trip to Yuma and we now know it was far too short a visit. Wee didn’t get a chance to really explore Yuma. Although while I was at my Phoenix meeting Lois, Hal and JoAnne visited the YumaTerritorial Historic Park which is a picturesque park packed with tons of information about the history of the area. The Park had been one of the “seedy sides of town” but has been completely restored and now hosts impressive wetlands and historic buildings. Upon my return, we all made a visit to the YumaTerritorial Prison.

The prison is clearly one of the main tourist attractions in the area. On our visit, we took the time to join a guided tour. The 45-minute tour is included in the $6 admission fee. It was very informative and I would recommend it. If you plan on visiting the prison – check around as there are lots of Yuma guide books that have $1 dollar off coupons. Coincidentally, a blog we follow, “The Boondocks” by fellow RVers Leeanne and Gary just wrote a review of their recent visit. So, no need for me to write what they have already completely covered. Check out their great post here.

JoAnne and I planned a trip south of the border to Algodones, Mexico. No, we didn’t need any dental work but we both wanted to get an extras set of eyeglasses. So, off to Mexico we went.

Like most tourists crossing into Mexico, we parked our car in the huge parking lot right at the border paid the $6 dollar parking fee and walked into Mexico and Algodones. We arrived around 10am and the place was already humming with activity.

The streets were filled with “older” US and Canadian citizens. Street vendors greet you with flyers advertising dental, prescription drug and optical services. There is live music. There is the splash of bright color from the shops and signs. There are streets lined with small shops. There are street vendors selling fresh vegetables and all sorts of trinkets. Then there are the big drugstores, dental and eyeglass offices that line the streets for about a 4-block area.

We spent a couple of hours just roaming through the shops and taking it all in. We stopped along the way to get haircuts. Mine was $5 and JoAnne’s was $6.

After the haircut we decided it was time for lunch and headed for the El Paraiso. After lunch we decided it was time to locate a shop for our glasses. As we roamed around we had walked through several eyeglass shops looking at the frames. As it turns out, many of the stores are owned by the same company and have the same inventory.

We ended up at Mendoza Optical, which is in the big purple building right as you first enter town. We were helped by a friendly sales associate who took our order and put us in line for our free eye exam. While we had brought our prescriptions from back home and didn’t really need an exam we figured what the heck. After about 15 minutes we were called for our exam. An optometrist who used all the same type of equipment our eye doctor in Broomfield, CO uses performed the exam.

He was very thorough. In fact, I mentioned I was having trouble reading with my progressive lenses. After he did some measuring and checked out my lenses he informed me that the progressive area of my current lenses was too low and that was what was causing the problem.  We got our prescriptions and we ordered our glasses. Since we had waited so late in the day, we were not able to get our glasses the same day (usually they can have your glasses ready in a couple of hours). We came back the next day and picked them up.

Here is the deal... and we did deal, my glasses totaled $140 would have cost over $400 back home. JoAnne’s (designer frames) were $120 and would have been at least $300 back home. Oh… success!!! We both can read and do computer work with our new “Mexican glasses.”

Our Algodones experience was great. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Yes, there are lots of street vendors but we found them very courteous (is that an oxymoron?) and when you said “no thank you” they left you alone. Actually, many of them had a great sense of humor and were fun to talk with.

Getting back into the US did involve about a 30 minute wait the first time when we crossed around 3:00pm but when we went back to pick up our glasses early the next day we didn’t have any wait.

Yes, our trip to Yuma was far too short. We will definitely plan on coming back next year and spend a lot more time in the area – which will include a trip to Algodones for any needed dental work.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Return Trip to Borrego Springs: Exploration and Relaxation


When we were here last year we stayed at Borrego Palm Canyon campground in Anza Borrego State Park. This year we decided to boondock on BLM land off or Rock House Tr. We first learned about this area from reading the WheelingIt blog. Nina gives a great review of this boondocking area here.

Lois, JoAnne & Hal at Fonts Point
View west from Fonts Point
Under the Exploration heading: We first headed out to Fonts Point. There is an amazing view of the Borrego Badlands, the entire Borego Valley and a couple million years of geologic history.

The town of Borrego Springs is itself worthy an interesting no, I will say it… funky little town. It is as described in the Visitors Guide, “A world away from traffic, from chain stores, from commotion, from crowds, from deadlines, from the predictable, from the mundane.”

JoAnne and Lois at the Borrego Springs Farmers Market

Friday morning means farmer’s market at Christmas Circle (the roundabout and park on the east side of town). While not a huge market there was a great selection of farm fresh produce, flowers, baked goods and other hand-crafted goodies.

After the market we drove around Galleta Meadows to see the wonderful desert sculptures of Ricardo Brededa. The serpent is probably the most famous but the 1946 Willys Jeep is one of my favorites.

Lois, JoAnne, Rick & Hal at Julian Cafe
It was still early enough to make it up to Julian for lunch and some of their famous Apple Pie… simply the best.

We spent all day Saturday driving through the washes that snake through the badlands.

17 Palms
Prospectors Mailbox
Hidden Treasure
Our fist stop was 17 Palms with its Prospectors Post office – while here we also went on a treasure hunt – yes, success.

JoAnne at 5 Palms

Pumpkin Patch

We then made it past 5 Palms and Una Palma and finally to the Pumpkin Patch. This strange landscape is the result of wind and water continuously eroding the surface soil and revealing globular sandstone concretions that look much like pumpkins in size and shape. While at the Pumpkin Patch, JoAnne passed the Scat Identification test.

We could have used these for our trip back from the Pumpkin Patch
The easy part of the trip back
We decided to take a different and an unfamiliar route back to the main road. Little did we know that the picture of us pushing the jeep sculpture would be a harbinger of adventures to come. My bad for not taking pictures of some of the crazy places we found ourselves in – but I think we were all too focused on making it out safely. As Hal commented to dirt biker we caught up with to ask directions, “I don’t belong here”. So true… Anyway, we made it out and can chalk up the experience to an exciting and memorable adventure.

On the heading of Relaxing: It was great just hanging out in the very quiet and peaceful desert. We flew Hal's quad copter...that is until I crash laded it! Writing this blog and just soaking up the sun.

OK, occasionally the howling of the Coyotes broke the silence.

At night we enjoyed the very dark skies (Borrego Springs is a designated International Dark Sky Community). We sat around evening campfires fires, played cards and enjoyed adult beverages.

Happy Anniversary!
On Sunday, February 9, JoAnne and I celebrated our wedding anniversary… we had a wonderful dinner at Find The Red Ocotillo. It was extra special being able to celebrate with our good friends Hal and Lois.

For me there is something haunting and mystical about this very dry and forbidding desert that keeps drawing us back. But we are now off to Yuma.
Borrego Springs 022014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge – a Real Treat

Burrowing Owl
On Monday we pulled in the slides, raised the levelers, hooked up our little Honda Fit. and headed East on I10  and then south on Hwy 78 and River Road to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. Hal and Lois were in our rear view mirror the entire way.

We first heard about this refuge from Joe and Murlene, a couple who we had first met via our blog and email. We then met in person when they visited us in Glacier last year. They have now been full time RVers for 8 months. Last summer they were volunteer camp hosts at Quartz Falts US Gov Campground near Superior, MT. and now they are volunteering here at Cibola NWR.

As an aside, Joe does some amazing photography. You really need to check his work out here.

Joe - JoAnne - Murlene
Hal - Murlene - Lois - Joe
Our campsite
Originally we had panned on Boondocking on the BLM land across from the Refuge.

But when we arrived at Cibola we learned that Joe had received special permission for both rigs to camp with them in the volunteer area. After we got all set up, they piled us into their truck and took us for a private tour of the refuge. Then… they had us all over to their RV for an amazing Salmon dinner. Wow! To say they have been gracious hosts is an understatement.

Cibola has been an unexpected treat. It is made up of 18,500 acres located on the floodplain of the Lower Colorado River and is an important habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl and resident birds.

Clearly, the refuge is most noted as a birding mecca. Over 240 species of birds use the refuge but it is also home to mule deer, coyote, bobcat, and occasionally, mountain lion, kit and grey fox, and badger. Oh… and a herd of wild burros. About 2000 acres are also farmed.

There is a small but nicely done visitor center/headquarters building and an auto tour route that starts at the headquarters. There are several other roads leading to Hart Mine Marsh, Tie Back Levee, the Island, and Cibola Lake.

Jeeping with Hal and Lois

If you are not a birder – not to worry.  Besides the Colorado River, the surrounding BLM land, Trigo Mountains to the east and Chocolate Mountains to the west offer plenty of other options to keep you busy. We spent Tuesday jeeping into both ranges, exploring old mines and just having a ton of fun.

Tomorrow we head for Borrego Springs and Anza Borrego State Park.

Below are some of the sights from our visit to this special place.

View behind our RV

Sandhill Cranes

Old mine
Bye for now