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…

By the Salton Sea

Sky: blue.  Temperature: 23C.

As these rather pleasant weather observations at the Salton Sea convey, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are at a latitude where the snow don’t show. But as the Salton Sea isn’t as well known as Palm Springs, CrossCountry Bob thought it might be useful to provide a few clues as to where this Sea actually is and that way everyone will be, if not on the same page, at least in the same country…

Two clues should be sufficient for most to determine the country but if not, here is Clue 3.

Stars and Stripes (they don’t like small flags in this neighbourhood)

When CrossCountry Bob last posted, Winnie was still on the ocean shore near Bodega Bay.  Here is Paintin’ Peggie hard at work, capturing a bit of that ocean mystery.

Paintin’ Peggie in her office

But it was time to move on to the next phase of the trek and Winnie, always up to a challenge, slipped south on the Interstates, skirting San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose and then a straight shot south on the I5. 

Richmond – San Rafael bridge – notice the quality air

Very cleverly (thought CrossCountry Bob), he had picked a Sunday for this traverse and the traffic was Sunday morning light.  A beautiful day except for the pollution gift of the Bay Area – a nice, thick carpet of brown from north of San Francisco all the way down past San Jose and on to Bakersfield.  And to keep that brown company there was the flat nothing of the Central Valley (but productive for agriculture – wow!).  After some hours hauling south, Winnie passed by Bakersfield and turned east up into the hills. Dusk was creeping in but the skies blued up and the scenery turned fun.  Paintin’ Peggie had her camera up and working once again.

But by then CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie had had enough driving for the day and so it was an overnighter in Tehachapi at the Flying J Truck Stop.  Perfect for a quick park and sleep after a long day of driving. 

How CrossCountry Bob felt at the end of this long day of driving

Winnie, on the other hand, settled right in next to the trucks (CrossCountry Bob thinks maybe Winnie liked hanging with the big boys for a bit).

Winnie and her new friends

All those big trucks need some additional mention here.  Was Winnie in the United States of Trucks?  There are trucks packing every interstate and highway and every one of those trucks insisted on barreling past Winnie.  Speed limit? For suckers, maybe, not truckers.  While CrossCountry Bob had to focus on keeping Winnie steady as those trucks blew by he was smiling about one thing though.  CrossCountry Bob bought oil stocks 18 months back when you couldn’t give away Alberta oil companies and now, looking around California at the flocks of trucks, CrossCountry Bob thinks that even if oil is playing the back nine it is still a long way from done (you could apply that bit of description to CrossCountry Bob as well he thinks).

One place CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie had on their “To Do in USA while BC freezes” list was Joshua Tree National Park.  This Park turned out to be a winner even if it the Joshua Tree is not a tree at all but a member of the yucca family (Yucca brevifolia to be exact) .  And the name?  The story goes that the name was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Believe that story or not (CrossCountry Bob buys it as it sounds like the Mormons), the Joshua tree is an impressive piece of this desert land. Just as impressive, but different, is the rocks – yes, rocks.  Check out those shapes…

Those rocks were thrust up into these lands millions of years ago and have been eroded since into unique shapes. Part of our ever changing planet which moves in cycles much, much longer than a human lifespan (something CrossCountry Bob always tries to keep in mind when he hears talk of preserving something “forever”).

Since one objective of this trip was finding warm, CrossCountry Bob needs to mention it was cold up there at night on the Joshua Tree Park plateau. Winnie’s furnace was working just fine (for you camping purists, this is an RV trip, not a camping trip. CrossCountry Bob’s camping days are past and if they weren’t he would be camping alone as Paintin’ Peggie has made more than clear that sleeping on the ground in a tent is a non-starter).

So, clear, cold nights littered with stars and a bright moon – a magical combination.  And, yes, clear nights mean cloudless days and CrossCountry Bob needs to mention that clear sky days have been on parade lately, one after the other with no end in sight.  CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are doing no complaining about that.

Blue skies and Joshua trees

Leaving Joshua Tree National Park, Winnie heads down, down, down and then there is the Salton Sea.  Two hundred feet below sea level in a geological trough resulting from the nearby San Andreas fault.  CrossCountry Bob never usually thinks much about earthquakes but right now at this very minute with his butt on the crack (in the earth), he thinks about it a bit while enjoying the view…

Sunrise on the Salton Sea

  CrossCountry Bob could maybe give a geology lesson on how the Earth is always changing but nobody likes lessons from CrossCountry Bob (but he will say anyway that the Salton Sea in times past was a huge freshwater lake called Lake Cahuilla and way before even that the Pacific Ocean extended inland to where CrossCountry Bob is sitting right now writing this blog).  The Salton Sea (a lake, actually) was itself created by accident when the Colorado River flooded in 1905, broke through the irrigation canals and drained into the Salton depression for a couple of years. It was great for a while, and Los Angles residents holidayed here in the fifties. Now, not so much (as in zero) with high salinity, algae blooms and receding waters…

Salton Sea shoreline

Speaking of where CrossCountry Bob is sitting…the sun is shining, the wind is light, Paintin’ Peggie is painting away and the living is good.  Homemade prawn cakes for dinner, washed down with California wine (CrossCountry Bob was careful to stock up at the Costco in Victorville).  What is America if not Costco (and Walmart)?

Tomorrow is Arizona. So today, last pictures of California, mostly from the fine eye of Paintin’ Peggie.

Welcome to California (finally)

There was no avoiding it. If you keep driving south along the Oregon coast, California eventually arrives.  Did you know that the economy of California is as big as the entire Canadian economy.  CrossCountry Bob was always impressed by that;  it is enough to give a Canadian an inferiority complex…except that…who wants to live in California (sun, sand, money, glamour, big cities, polluted, homeless, crime…notice the downhill trend?).  Some Californians appear to have  noticed as there is a net outward migration the last couple of years towards states such as Texas  Seems to be part of the tide of human affairs, reaching a pinnacle (in this case, economic), and then down the other side.

Meanwhile, outward migrations aside, saying that the California coast road, Highway 1, in northern California is windy is like saying the sun shines.  Its true but it hardly tells you much.  Winnie’s steering and brakes got a workout and Paintin’ Peggie’s camera was close to overheating.  Around every corner was another winner view.

And not forgetting the redwoods which were actually before that narrow coast road began.  Every time CrossCountry Bob sees those redwoods, he is impressed.  Probably due to that little bit of a forester still hiding inside him somewhere.  Paintin’ Peggie was certainly thrilled to hug a redwood!

That tree is probably over 1,000 years old

Winnie’s first campground in California was not the ideal advertisement for California Parks.  Just the opposite maybe.  Deep in those redwoods.  Dark, dark place.  And that would be okay if you liked dark forest canopies, but in winter the maintenance guys are apparently on extended vacation (but not the fee collector – full fees of course and a price to make BC Parks blush).  Now that is a turn of events – the USA costing more than Canada.

Avenue of the Giants -a tourist winner!

But CrossCountry Bob digresses.  Where was he? Oh, yes, Winnie was heading down Highway 1 and on some of the high cliffs, CrossCountry Bob was sometimes wondering what a front tire blowout would mean (bye bye Winnie & Company?).  But, tires intact, Mendocino appeared out of the ocean mists.  A nice spot with that classic history of a logging boom town (remember those redwoods) and then a slow fade to not much of anything and, eventually, a metamorphosis into arts, crafts and tourism.  While the coast north of Mendocino/Fort Bragg (the ugly duckling of the pair) is virtually deserted in January, this changes to the south.  For one thing, CrossCountry Bob noticed an increasing frequency of BMWs and Audis, piloted by youngish drivers with premium shades.  Perhaps the Silicon Valley money oozing north? (figures CrossCountry Bob).  And my, my they do love their masks in California.  In some spots its an outdoor fashion accessory.  But no matter the passing changes in the minutiae of human affairs, the sunsets keep on coming and there was a premium one of those just outside Mendocino and that is where Winnie settled for a night to just enjoy.

Van Damme Bay south of Mendocino

After that sunset and a good sleep, Winnie continued south towards Bodega Bay but pulled in just north of there at a state campground called Wright’s Beach; the maintenance guys were still missing in action (but not the fee collector of course), but the campsite made that mostly irrelevant. You can see the campsite spot from which Cross Country Bob wrote this post (sunglasses and hat required to defend against that lovely sun).

Campsite – view from CrossCountry Bob’s camp chair

Beachfront camping is sweet for sure and the living is very fine at Wrights Beach with the clear skies and warm sun.  Not to say it was all things fine as Winnie found the campsite sand soft and inviting and she wanted to sink right in…

RV sand trap – easy in, not so easy out

  CrossCountry Bob made it out – just (if not, oh how deflating, was it a call to the American Automobile Association for a tow?).  Well, CrossCountry Bob has learned a few lessons along the way and one is to always, always trust your gut when it comes to taking a chance or not.  Then why, in this instance, did CrossCountry Bob not listen?…some things have no answer. But saving grace – using another of those few lessons learned along the way, CrossCountry Bob deployed Winnie’s leveling blocks as traction pieces and Winnie eased back out (skillful driving by CrossCountry Bob?).  Uh, no.  That’s yet another of the few lessons CrossCountry Bob learned – don’t take credit for getting yourself out of a jam you put yourself into.

Winnie’s eventual fate if CrossCountry Bob drove deeper into that sand?

And now, the last days of ocean are upon Cross Country Bob and Paintin’ Peggie.  Decisions must be made on the inland route.  But that is for later.  Paintin’ Peggie is painting outside (plein air painting they call it) and CrossCountry Bob is writing this but at the same time sneaking thoughts about the oysters that he will pan fry for dinner (after being prepped by Paintin’ Peggie using a dynamite recipe from Fannie Bay Oysters on Vancouver Island).  Gin and tonic beforehand of course.  What else did you expect?  

O Oysters, said the Carpenter,

You’ve had a pleasant run!

Shall we be trotting home again?

But answer came there none –

And this scarcely odd, because

They’d eaten every one.

from “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll

And some more photos along the way…

Still in Oregon

Blue skies, ocean mist, sandy beaches with crashing surf – that is why CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie just reached Brookings on the southern Oregon border. CrossCountry Bob figures that a fast walker could probably have reached California before Winnie. But no matter that, the glow of life shines more favourably on the experiences, not on the “we made great time”.

And one great experience is “seafooding” your way south. There was another crab shack in Bandon and Paintin’ Peggie just loved this one. Great clam chowder and even better fish tacos. The food was so good CrossCountry Bob forgot to take a picture of the place. Well, as penance, here is a shot by Paintin’ Peggie of a seahorse sculpted entirely from ocean debris collected by a local Bandon society called Washed Ashore. Nice.

With so much going on, Winnie was quite content to settle for a few days in the nearby state park, Bullard’s Beach State Park, just north of Bandon. Only, sad to say, 4 miles of sand and surf adjacent to the campground, and to the south of the beach a rocky shoreline with great view from the bluffs. Easy place to stay awhile. We did.

And met a local who was hunting agate for his daughter. This particular Bandon beach is rich with good agate he says. He was a young 85, still walking some miles every day. Retired to Bandon at the tender age of 64. CrossCountry Bob spent the next hour hunting for agates. Okay, there are things CrossCountry Bob is good at and many things he is not. When he is unsure which is which, Paintin’ Peggie is there to make things clear.

Hunting agates, 85 and the back still works just fine!

But. But. But. Back at Bullard Beach, there was something strange happening; quite unusual. CrossCountry Bob made a best guess that it just might be the Covid Virus assembling itself into frothy attack formations. See for yourself in the short video clip that CrossCountry Bob snagged at great personal risk. Are we doomed? Who can say…we each have to make our own choices.

Video of attack formations temporarily blocked…

Meanwhile, we are all here and the world is still a beautiful place. Here is a bit of photo evidence of that…