From Tubac to the O.K. Corral

A key part of this little southern adventure is to observe and experience Art (CrossCountry Bob not being an art expert, tends to find his Art by trotting along behind Paintin’ Peggie).  And Paintin’ Peggie found Tubac and so, no surprise whatsoever, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie left cold Sedona and arrived in Tubac, Arizona, an artistic community 70 kilometres south of Tucson.  Paintin’ Peggie’s timing was impeccable with an art festival underway with more than 100 artists and artisans marketing their wares, much of it of admirable quality.

One thing CrossCountry Bob noticed is that the Americans were more likely than Canadians to part with their dollars for quality art.  This might be a function (speculated CrossCountry Bob) of the fact that most of the festival attendees were retired boomers with money (in most of the campgrounds Winnie has visited down south, she was the small Chevy among the Caddies).

But there is one thing Americans are much less inclined to part with and that would be their Bill of Rights.  It used to be not so long ago that Canadians would turn their gaze south and ponder whether the troubles in America perhaps stemmed in part from an over zealous love of free speech and guns for everyone.  This American view of how it should be was always different than Canada’s “peace, order and good government”.  But, while Canadians seemed content with their self-satisfaction over the years, something strange and alien was seeping under the back door, spreading like an Omnicron, replacing Canadian niceness with a blanket intolerance.  This alien fog spread over the entire spectrum, from left to right, moderate to extreme, and like the Omnicron, is not the least bit fussy about who it infects.  Suddenly, if you don’t agree with “the view”, you are on the outside looking in, an enemy of the entrenched elite (you know, those who know whats best for you and won’t hesitate to tell you so).  Is this how Canadian democracy will come to die, in a wilderness of petty virtue signaling and intolerance?

From down south, CrossCountry Bob watches the once abundant polite Canadian becoming rarer by the day.  Even the Americans have noticed (and it takes a lot (a lot!) for Americans to even remember that Canada exists, let alone be interested).  When CrossCountry Bob left Canada on January 9 part of his blogging plan was to write about democracy in America.  But in an ironic twist, it is Canadian democracy on the table.  Maybe the Americans will send us their inventory of these for deployment in Ottawa and wherever the locals become restless…

Meanwhile, back to Tubac, for there is abundant life not to be smothered.  There is creativity and beautiful art, far away from the twittering crowd.

But was there a dark side to Tubac?  After some hours of the festival, the image of a cold beer would not leave CrossCountry Bob’s thoughts.  And with that cold bottle of beer at Tubac Jack’s Saloon, why not some nachos in Tex-Mex land?  Turns out the beer was cold but the nachos would certainly be nominated by CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie as the “worst ever”.

Ahh, a lukewarm cheese sauce (not cheese!)

And where was Winnie during this time of great art and bad nachos?  Well, after the first night in a dump that impersonated an RV campground, Winnie settled into a pleasant boondocking site about 5 km north of Tubac (boondocking – the art of camping for free on federal lands).  The price, of course, was unbeatable and the desertscape could not be priced, especially in the early morning light or an approaching sunset.

As a side note to dawn and dusk, one thing Paintin’ Peggie has taught CrossCountry Bob is how certain light best enhances nature and as a result CrossCountry Bob’s appreciation of natural beauty is way up.  Bonus points to Paintin’ Peggie!

Tubac had one other feature that CrossCountry Bob was particularly fond of and that was sunny, warm weather (shorts and short sleeves to be specific).  After cold Sedona, a pleasure. Biking into the hills consumed parts of several days, exploring the desertscape and waving at the frequent present border patrols.

But even the warmth could not hold Winnie for too long and after some days of Tubac’s art and always fascinating Americana, Winnie was becoming restless.

With Tubac in the rearview mirror, Paintin’ Peggie turned her attention to bakeries. You may recall that Paintin’ Peggie has a keen eye for a bakery and in the town of Patagonia (population 972) she found a winner. 

For the record, it has been noted at times that Paintin’ Peggie in a Patagonia bakery is an amazing replica of CrossCountry Bob in a wine shop.  She knows what she likes (he knows what he likes), she buys what she likes (he buys what he likes ), she eats it (he drinks it).  All an integral part of the cycle of life of Winnie in America.

Once the baked goods inventory was reduced to the satisfaction of Paintin’ Peggie and CrossCountry Bob, it was on to Karchner Caverns State Park.  No actual caverns for CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie (dark, damp, batty, and crawling with Americans with smart phones) but it was a nice spot for Paintin’ Peggie to be inspired for plein air painting.  And it was also a nice spot for Paintin’ Peggie to lead CrossCountry Bob off the grid (again!) on a trail supposedly okay for mountain bikes but not…

Paintin Peggie, it has to be said, has this endearing propensity of not quitting something once started, and when it involves mountain bikes and trails, well, it has to become a mountain goat trail before Paintin’ Peggie yields.

To CrossCountry Bob’s relief, the climbing trail eventually became impassable to mountain bikes and it was turn around and back down; a careful descent into the growing dusk which of course hid the rock that ambushed the front tire of CrossCountry Bob’s bike.  Down went CrossCountry Bob (hating that moment when he realized there was no recovery and there was nothing to be done but brace for landing).  CrossCountry Bob did brace and missed the plentiful cactus spines by a fraction.  The just as plentiful rocks made up for that narrow escape by providing a hard hello to his left palm and a smack to the left knee. Nothing severe as it turned out, but CrossCountry Bob’s knee was not happy.

The next day, heading out for a “short” hike, Paintin’ Peggie says, “Why are you limping?”  Eyes askance by CrossCountry Bob was sufficient answer.  That knee kept Paintin’ Peggie waiting on the hike from time to time as CrossCountry Bob was being careful not to turn tender knee into trouble knee. 

The plein air course in Tucson that Paintin’ Peggie had signed up for was now on the time horizon and a few days in busy Catalina State Park near the course location seemed just the ticket.  But camping sites were scarce and then, Miracle!, a few sites were suddenly available and Paintin’ Peggie snagged one of the sites online.  Arrival turned that miracle to dust as the extra “sites” turned out to be a group gravel site converted to cozy RV slots complete, as it turned out , with droning generators and free radio music from Winnie’s neighbour.

Peggie took a picture of it all from the hill behind and called it the O.K. Corral; our version of nearby Tombstone thought CrossCountry Bob except there would be no Wyatt Earp showdown for Winnie (maybe wise since there were no guns in Winnie but there certainly were in a few of the American RVs as a casual conversation with a camper or two revealed to CrossCountry Bob).

And now, for those of you who persevered through this blog and CrossCountry Bob’s diversion into the state of Canadian democracy, a few photos of Winnie’s continuing escapades…

North to Sedona (or, Cold Beauty)

Where to from Organ Pipe National Monument? Paintin’ Peggie wanted to paint around the erosion sculpted red rocks of Sedona. So Winnie went north. A pit stop at a boomer RV park in Cottonwood for laundry and those types of mundane items. Then onward. There was one concern creeping into the best laid plans – the high desert – north was higher elevation and that meant colder. Well, how cold could it be in Arizona? Turns out plenty cold..

Early morning surprise and welcome to the high desert

Winnie was cranky about the water lines but for one cold night she tolerated it.

During the day the high desert warms so CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie carried on, being careful of the wind (as in cold wind) that seemed pervasive. Not to be deterred though, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie checked out Jerome, an old copper mining town up in the hills (colder even). It turned out to be a town pleasantly reborn as an art and craft town. Paintin’ Peggie had fun. CrossCountry Bob stayed mostly in the sun, staying warm while hunting for Americana.

After Jerome, it was another overnighter in the brisk air, then on to Montezuma Castle, a national monument area. Looked like a fine place to live at one time, probably the high rent district with the peasants down below on the valley floor working the fertile river valley and taking the arrows from whatever invaders happened by. And always watching out for the flash floods that also drop by from time to time (this is an occasionally far too much water type of desert).

After Montezuma, Winnie rolled north into Sedona – a reputation for beauty well deserved. But tourist dollars and hikers everywhere take the shine off for CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie (both are “less people please” types). Now that can be a problem with snowbirds and their RVs littered across the land but the resourceful duo solved that by going boondocking along a forestry road, locating a spot with great painting views and no neighbours (your average snowbird with an RV tends to be allergic to settling in where there is no power (horrors!), no water (oh, how to cope) and no cable TV (perhaps the worst of all, especially for those boomer RVs with TWO TV’s). For CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie, as long as the cold of night was held at bay by Winnie’s furnace, their boondocking spot was premium grade with class A painting potential.

There was the cool air of course, but the compensation was a sunrise.

But eventually enough is enough when its warm you want (after all, Winnie didn’t come to Arizona seeking cold) and it was exit south, braving the freeways through Phoenix (busy and fast) and then Tucson (not so busy and getting warmer). South of Tucson was the next destination – Tubac. What is in Tubac (besides warmer weather)? If you guessed a town of artists, galleries and lots of retired American snowbirds, then you have figured out why Paintin’ Peggie and CrossCountry Bob are stopping there.

Next post will be the Tubac adventure and a helping of Americana, Tubac style.

As always, some photos to finish with…

Among the Cacti

In every direction a desertscape, a part of the Sonoran Desert where the organ pipe cactus resides undisturbed (mostly).  Some cacti nearby paid the ultimate price to make way for the Wall, one side USA and one side Mexico.  The cacti (other than those that paid the price) seem indifferent to the human ebb and flow (actually no ebb, only a flow north), playing their own cacti waiting game – waiting for rain (to survive), waiting for night (to flower in summer), waiting to grow (slowly) when the time is right.

CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are in Arizona, in Organ Pipe National Monument, a few miles north of the Wall.  The camping is pleasant, abundant time to paint and write and walk the desert trails.  To get to this part of the Sonoran Desert, Winnie rolled east from the Salton Sea, passing through Yuma which an uncle of CrossCountry Bob’s once called “the asshole of the world”.  Maybe it was thirty years ago when he made that comment but now Yuma is merely a nondescript midsize city- nothing too good and nothing too bad.  CrossCountry Bob didn’t spot an asshole anywhere (even though he really, really looked).  But he did find an Albertson’s and there, at the request of Paintin’ Piggie, a resupply operation ensued so that Winnie was ready for desert camping stocked with the necessities (water, food and wine in case you were wondering).

Night was rolling in so Winnie refueled at a Flying J truck stop (gasoline was $3.60 a US gallon in Yuma, $0.80 cheaper than in California, go figure, probably taxes thought CrossCountry Bob, as he reflected that these American states were chumps compared to the Canadian provinces when it came to laying on the gasoline taxes).  So, the refueling in Yuma worked quite fine but then not so fine for the truck stop night as a big rig slid in close and spent the night humming to Winnie with its running diesel throughout the entire night. 

Arriving at Yuma truck stop as the sun sets

Paintin’ Peggie is now officially no longer a fan of truck stops despite their late in the day, don’t have a plan convenience.  CrossCountry Bob will have to concoct some clever ruse to reverse that position.  Maybe adopt a Trudeau type specialty and characterize RV Parks as a fringe element consisting of undesirable boomers with unacceptable views whereas truckstops are filled with the good 90% of hard working truckers (is there any noun a politician uses that isn’t precede by “hard working”?).  Here’s a suggestion – “hard working” never belongs in front of the noun “politician”.

Boomers – undesirable element?

Enough of CrossCountry Bob digressing (for now).  Back to Winnie’s adventures.  The town of Gila Bend is the turn south for Organ Pipe National Monument and that town, other than sitting at a highway junction, serves no other useful purpose that CrossCountry Bob could discern.  For example, no bakery. And CrossCountry Bob learned some time ago that it may not be wise to let too much time lapse without Paintin’ Peggie meeting a good bakery.

A fondly remembered bakery way back in Oregon

In this instance there was nothing CrossCountry Bob could do except drive south and shilft attention to Ajo, an old copper mining town turned snowbird winter hangout. A pleasant town square and lots of old miner homes converted to boomer winter abodes – there was even a bum display by an old timer on a park bench… 

Boomer nudity?

CrossCountry Bob says don’t let the view put you off the town. In any event, it was south from Ajo as there were places to see and scenes to paint. And with serious painting on the agenda, Organ Pipe National Monument was the ticket.

Lots of cacti hanging out, waiting (to be painted). While Paintin’ Peggie painted, CrossCountry Bob learned a lot about cacti, for instance they like it hot and the big ones can live over one hundred years. But there is more to the desert than cacti; check out this little ambush predator that CrossCountry Bob spotted:

Waiting for dinner to drop by…

But that spider is not the main event in this particular neighbourhood.  Something much bigger stretches across the desert…just folow CrossCountry Bob’s finger…

USA this side, Mexico on the other side

There is a lot of border patrol activity in the vicinity and signs warning CrossCountry Bob to do what he would do anyway and that is use caution and avoid strangers in the open desert (especially, they say, if those strangers are carrying black water bottles).  CrossCountry Bob figures that must be because the sun reflecting from a shiny water bottle could be spotted by border patrols.  Ahhhh, America, whatever Canadians might think, lots of other people still want in.

Border patrol station just north of Organ Pipe National Monument

Now back to more important things.  As in Paintin’ Peggie hard at work in the desert…

Artist at work – do not disturb

A note here about that cholla cactus in the left foreground.  This cactus loves to lie in wait and “jump” on unsuspecting artists in the desert who do not move about with care! CrossCountry Bob does not have a picture of the one that jumped Paintin’ Peggie because it was a choice (easy) of a picture or quickly and carefully removing the jumper spines from Paintin’ Peggie’s hand. With Paintin’ Peggie rescued, it was time for CrossCountry Bob to check his shoe…

And learning from the entire experience, here is CrossCountry Bob working on his blog while being cleverly positioned at a safe distance from the cholla cactus (and coincidentally closer to the refreshments)…

No cholla cactus in sight!

And, now, here is Winnie relaxing in the sun, resting up for the coming drive north towards Sedona…

Notice the engine hood up?  That is to discourage the local packrats from nesting at night and chewing up the wiring to use as A1 quality nesting material.  The local desert inhabitants never miss a trick at surviving in the desert. 

CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are now as far south as Winnie wants to venture.  Some RV’s cross into Mexico for the short 60 mile hop to Puerto Peñasco on the Gulf of California but CrossCountry Bob will pass on that.  Mexico in a RV is not a dance CrossCountry Bob wants to get up and do.  Winnie will stay on this side of the Wall.

To finish up, CrossCountry Bob wanted to say that he is enjoying writing this blog and wants to thank everyone for reading and a special thanks to those who take the time to post a comment or two.  Much appreciated. Y ahora, saludos especiales a mis amigos en nuestro grupo español 😊

As always, to wrap things up, a few pictures of people, places and other oddities from the perspective of Paintin’ Peggie and CrossCountry Bob…