<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 0
Little Log


Stephanie is one of those persons who is always mailing postcards back to family and friends. Somehow, by writing in very small scribble, and filling not only the intended message area, but with sideways writing, arrows, and otherwise using virtually every available area on the postcard, she can get an awful lot of information onto a very small space. She'll be reporting in here from time to time on our travels, experiences, impressions and general state of mind.


March 10, 1996

During breakfast in Joshua Tree National Park two days ago, we suddenly realized that our winter sojourn was over. Just like that, we started packing up and left a beautiful desert morning, trading it for what today seems the norm for our remaining travels - rain.

Now it is time to revisit our grandkids, make sure the house hasn't washed away during our nearly three month voyage, clean the RV and ourselves, and - - plan for the next trip. Our summertime travels are usually much shorter than this past, but we already know we will spend a May week in Monterey , and June will find us in Idaho.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with us...We will write again, soon!


March 1,1996

July 8, 1995, the "Rio" Fire hit this lovely campground. Today, as we look around from our campsite, the scene seems one of widespread destruction. The saguaro are charred and broken, the cholla lie on the ground resembling large black spiders. All that seems lacking is a cow skull to complete the desolate picture.

But wait! Not quite. All the bird species one expects to see here -- are here. The sparrows, finches, doves, cardinals, wrens and hawks have returned. The coyotes and rabbits are in residence and, since there is little cover, they are very visible. The park volunteers have planted mesquite, ocotillo and palo verde, and there is a project underway to root the arms of those Saguaro Cacti which were burned and will die anyway. This should give each cactus as much as a 20 year head start in growth.

There are many parts of the Park which weren't burned, and even in the burned areas there are pockets of desert which sustained no damage; enclaves of brush, green cactus and even some spots of yellow and purple wildflowers. The hiking trails are all open, and the flowers in the picnic areas, which were untouched by the fire, are blooming. It is not the same McDowell that was previously on our "Best 10" list, but it is on the road to recovery. I look forward to seeing the changes next year brings.


Feb. 26, 1996

Whether the Weather -- or, what to do when it rains in Arizona...

After 60 + days of beautiful sunshine, we finally ran into wind, rain, and even some snow at not too high an elevation. Golf was out, swimming only marginally attractive, even walking the dog required a sweatshirt , jeans and a rain jacket. So this afternoon, we explored Madera Canyon.

The end of the access road into this canyon is located some16 miles east of Green Valley, AZ, or about 35 miles southeast of Tucson. In the last 13 miles the road climbs approximately 3000 feet, and the changes in climate are not unlike those encountered if you were to drive from here to Canada. From the scrub desert through grassland to evergreens and oaks it is a birdwatchers paradise, and you are likely to spot deer and even coatimundi.

There is a small campground at Bog Springs, where we did see some medium length RVs, as well as tents. The twisty access road and tight corners would not be friendly to larger RVs. There are also 2 areas where you can rent cabins. Artfully set into the rocks and wooded areas, with bird feeders set around them, they had an almost idyllic look about them. There are hikng trails of varying lengths and different degrees of difficulty, but on this day of rain, with ice pellets falling from the trees in the wind, hiking was not on our agenda.

However, next time, it surely will be!


February 19, 1996

Situated 40 miles above the Mexican border, 35 miles from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and 10 miles from Why, Ajo, AZ might seem to be a way station, a town to be passed through on the way to somewhere else, to somewhere more of a real destination. If you take just a little time to see at this town you will find that nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly my own attitude about this small town has been happily and positivley adjusted as a result of our taking the time to check it out.

First, the people are wonderfully friendly. We explored the Ajo Golf and Country Club, and were invited to participate in the weekly Friday night game, or at least the Saturday night Steak Barbeque, where you bring your own meat and the club furnishes the fixins'. The owners of the RV Resort where we stayed drew us a map to find a boarding kennel for our dog. Eat at any of the small restaurants , and you will meet the locals, from waitresses to border patrolmen.

At Shadow Ridge RV Resort, a full hookup facility, each site is separated by a hedge of oleander and other native plants. The people here stay in Ajo the entire winter, playing golf, hiking, doing ceramics, & enjoying the nightly "get-togethers" with their winter friends. They are terribly happy that many of their contemporaries love places like Yuma and Mesa, leaving the small towns for them!

The owners of the resort went out of their way to show us their town. There is a circle drive around Camelback Mountain, better known as "A" Mountain, due to the A inscribed in rock part way up. They claim that there are as many organ pipe cacti as in the National Monument to the south. From what we saw, this very well may be true! Cabesa Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is nearby, a Visitor Center is right in town and a tour company will take you to some more unusual places in the northern Mexican desert, as well as to the more obvious places such as Puerto Penasco. There are several art galleries, local produce stands, and two grocery stores. Our traveling companions needed a new tire, and the local service station attendant arrived within the quarter hour, passing along his interesting life's story as he changed the tire...

Some way station! We plan on returning soon to explore more of Ajo.


February 16, 1996

If you could turn this postcard over to see its lovely picture, it would not be of El Golfo. There are no postcards for sale in this tiny town. The epitome of the word sleepy, the town has two grocery stores, a gas station, 3 small and unassuming restaurants, and one telephone. There is a motel, but calling for a reservation is obviously impossible. The main streets are hard packed sand, ok unless you wander onto a shoulder, when driving can get quite treacherous.

The beach here is absolutely the loveliest I have ever seen. It stretches 25+ miles, and is all sand. No rocks, no people. There is nothing on it but several hundred gulls and shorebirds, several pangas (Mexican fishing boats which look like large rowboats), and some government owned palapas. Under these thatch covered umbrella shaped structures, you can camp for the night, right on the beach. The cost is $3 per night - IF anyone comes to collect. Of course in an RV, you drive out their on the sand at your peril!

The people. ..At the El Pionero RV "resort" (where there were about 100 spaces occupied by 3 seemingly abandoned RVs, and one beautiful Country Coach occupied by a charming couple, two whippets and a poodle), we met the Daughertys. They had been dry camping for several days and were intending to stay longer, since they had the place to themselves and a coach which could handle a lot of dry camping. What does it matter if there is no water in the pool, few groceries in the Mini-Mart, no washers in the laundromat, and no hookups at all -- if you have your very own beach for walking and wildlife watching.

In town, there is a "new" El Golfo Motel being built/refurbished. Raoul and an American, "John Smith" have completed a 5 site RV park with full hookups and a laundry. This will be the most "modern" facility in the town, but it is not on the ocean.

Frank LaCivita seems to be THE local fisherman. His blue painted home near the motel is extremely neat - right down to the swept patio, and astroturf mat on which he (and therefore his guests) wipe their feet. I even contemplated removing my shoes! He discussed the fishing seasons, that the shrimp season was virtually over and corbina (a fish similar to halibut) were not quite "in yet". We did buy some frozen shrimp from this year's catch from him, and when, some day, we return, I'd love to get him for a day's charter fishing.

El Golfo is the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-town. Once it did have at least one "luxury" RV park, but it was flooded by an ocean storm several years ago, and no one seems to have bothered to repair it. The restaurants are probably quite good, but their exteriors would be benefitted by a little attention. However, the people are extremely friendly, and I look forward to revisiting El Golfo de Santa Clara in a few years.

But not on the weekends. We ran into the Daughertys a few days later in Organ Pipe National Monument, and learned that this sleepy town can be quite different on weekends. The Daughertys found the weekend full of touristas with ATVs cruising the beaches and hills at all hours of the day and night. So, I look forward to revisiting El Golfo again, but during the week!


Feb. 10, 1996

We arrived to an unusually crowded Borrego Springs this morning We were obviously among the few who did not know that Native American Days Celebration, was being held at the Borrego Springs Visitor Center. What a show.

There were tables set up outside the Center where pottery and handicrafts were displayed. One table held handmade dolls dressed in gay colored clothing. The dolls were depictions of Indian women, all had braids, and were wearing the types of clothing that the Cahuilla (the Indians of this area) wore when the missionary inflence was strong here. This area has been traversed by Spaniards since the early 1700's and was integral for access to the missions on the coast.

One wonderful old woman was having her picture taken. Her face was a deep walnut, and very lined. Her eyes were sparkling black. With a kerchief over her head and under her chin, she was a living example of the historical pictures one sees in many books.

This was a gathering for the whole family. I watched about 20 children playing Indian children's games. The one I saw was similar to "Simon Says", where the player must follow only those instructions given by Simon. Several times during the day, there were songs and dances in the newly completed outside ampitheater.

A most popular weekend at Borrego. The small granddaughter of friends enjoyed watching the games and music, and refused to give up her Indian doll for more than a few moments. Delightful. I will try to attend next year.


February 2, 1996

Baltimore and Tom's meetings behind us, we arrived by train in Jacksonville, Florida this morning. Donesta, the Amtrak station agent, took time from her busy schedule to brief a group of us with a 10 hour layover before boarding the Westbound "Sunset Limited". She pointed out various places to go, attractions to visit, etc. in the area, all calculated to help us get the most out of our time in the Jacksonville area. She did a great job, and we were like a bunch of school kids listening to a favorite teacher. We opted for a side trip to St. Augustine, via rental car, taking a circle route down the freeway and then back via the ocean beaches.

We visited St. Augustine 30+ years ago, and knew it would be changed. There are lots of old buildings to be explored, in this oldest city in North America. And the old fort with its redoubt is still very impressive. But I found these attractions somewhat overwhelmed by the many motels, B &amp; Bs, and souvenir shops which now clog the main streets of the "old town".

We returned on Route A1A, right along the ocean. There are many lovely homes lining much of the route, but there are also ample spots to park and enjoy a walk along the uncrowded pristine beaches. This "back road" return route held a particular treat for us. For two people who live where ferry travel is one of life's necessities, it seems odd that we should go out of our way to find ferries and ride them. But we do. Today, on our return from St. Augustine, we found a tiny ferry which crosses the Saint Johns River . The ride, influenced as much by the current as the underpowered engine which propels it, takes from 5 to 10 minutes, is quite inexpensive, and offered a novel way to return to the train.

It was also exciting. Just before we landed, the Captain announced in a casual tone of voice that we should "prepare for a slight bump at docking." That was the understatement of the day! The "slight bump" turned out in fact to be a purposeful crash into the waiting pilings on the other side. Apparently that's the ONLY way they can stop the ferry against the strong river currents. No damage, except to the already
splintered bulkhead. Next time we'll fasten the seat belts..


January 26, 1996

We left for Tucson this am before breakfast. Stopping at the Old Pueblo restaurant as we passed through Florence for breakfast enchiladas, we knew we had found a special spot. Since then we have eaten another breakfast, and today lunch, at this same place.

Growing tired of the cardboard tortillas available in the average supermarket, I asked our waitress where they got their delicious ones. I fully expected to learn that they made them themselves, but learned that they came from local tortilla factory "just up the street". So we were off to the Golden Star, a small restaurant cum bakery where they had just finished making flour tortillas.

From antiques to T-shirts, from Kachinas to Christmas ornaments, the Florence General Store is an eclectic mix with a southwestern flavor. The town also boasts a beautiful turn-of-the-century court house, two museums and several pioneer homes, all open to the public. If you are in the area, don't miss Florence.

And if you savor Mexican fare, don't miss the "Old Pueblo"!


January 23, 1996

The picture on the front of this card looks just like what we saw today -- what a glorious panorama just inside the Arizona Desert museum, just west of Tucson. Drove down on our annual pilgrimage this a.m. and spent the afternoon wandering Arizona ! Saw the story of the formation of this area countless millenia ago, and walked through the large enclosed aviary (some people use cameras and binoculars, though the birds are so close I wonder if the latter is necessary). Visited the kit foxes, the coyotes, the javalinas and the prairie dog villages. This is a wonderful museum, and much credit goes to the fantastic cadre of volunteers which bring it all alive. We come back here each year, and it never gets "old".

Having left our 5th wheel behind for a night, we'd planned on staying the night in Tucson, but ol' wanderlust took us to Casa Grande. Spent the night at a Best Western there, with dinner at BeDillons. A must spot if you are in this area, this small restaurant has great food, wonderful atmosphere in an authentic old turn-of-the-century home, and appears to be the spot for the locals. Their Southwestern fare is something to write home about...which I'm doing now.


January 21, 1996

I was at "loose ends" this morning, with Tom on a marathon computer jag, so decided to explore the Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum. While I had heard some positive comments from folks who know the area well, there is nothing quite like your own exploration. I was very impressed.

Located 13 miles east of Queen Valley and 2 miles west of the old mining town of Superior, this arboretum is a showcase for plants of dry regions worldwide. It 's divided into separate gardens, displaying the plants of arid regions of Mexico or Texas. You can walk under Australian eucalyptus and view the plants from that part of the world. Succulents and cacti from Chile and parts of Africa are here. There are 2 greenhouses which feature "endangered" plants -- those unfortunately almost never seen these days in their native habitat.

This multi-acre park/arboretum is criss-crossed with trails. I took the mid-distance trek. In 1 1/2 miles, the trail passes a garden of Arizona cacti, by acacias in bloom, past native herb gardens, and comes to Ayer Lake. This small man-made lake is completely ringed with rushes, and there are birds here in profusion. I saw cardinals, curved bill thrashers, white crowned and black chinned sparrows, and on the lake a sleepy redheaded duck and several American coots.

From the lake the trail leads up to Picketpost House, the original homestead of this area, and now an antique store. Then it descends to Queen Creek. The proximity of water attracts birds and other animals. Found some very fresh Peccary (called Javalina here) tracks at this point...

Walking back toward the Visitor Center, there's a great picnic site. The Visitor Center sells attractively potted cacti of varying sizes.

Perhaps because of its distance from Phoenix, this arboretum is only lightly visited and I was practically the only hiker! Looking forward to returning at some point and taking the other trails...


January 14, 1996

Just finishing a three day "side trip" to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, with a quick one day trip to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point). We were surprised at how crowded Organ Pipe was NOT in mid-January. Apparently their high season is late January until about early March. That's when you'd better be checking in by mid to late morning if you're going to find a site here. We were fortunate to be there for the Saturday morning tradition, "cowboy coffee". This is the real stuff -- a generous heap of coffee grounds dumped into the largest, blackest coffee pot you'll ever see anywhere, with the whole thing boiling away over an outdoor wood fire. With the sunrise as the scenic backdrop, the volunteer ranger weaves his tales of the history which surrounds us, and then there's time to mix and meet our RV neighbors. Nice tradition here...

A short day trip to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point -- about 65 miles south on the Gulf of California) has become something of a tradition. We drive down to see "what's new" -- has the road been improved, (or not); has the town grown; how many times will we be stopped for donations to the Mexican Red Cross; etc.. We usually plan on lunch at one of the many restaurants here, and of course, buy fish and shrimp to take back.

There were some nice surprises this trip. The road has been improved. There are more smooth wide stretches than before, and currently at least no significant construction. The town certainly has grown. They have completed a luxury hotel, the Marina Penasco, which would be the rival of anything in Mazatlan or Acapulco. The hotel is right on the beach, and the beaches here are broad and sandy. While we didn't go in, we could see a beautiful lobby and some of the palapas on the beach. A few years ago, the shrimp boats were all rusting in dry dock, as the area had been over-fished, this year they were out fishing again. This is great for the prospect of fresh fish, and it also makes a very colorful scene!

We stopped for lunch at a past favorite restaurant near the fish market, Lilly's. While the food was still excellent, this year our check came payable only in dollars, or optionally that day's carefully computed peso equivalent. In past years we'd been able to pay the peso prices, using Visa, and when we eventually checked our Visa charges were always delighted with the benefits of the favorable exchange rate. Lilly's, at least, has curtailed that pleasure, and next time we'll experiment elsewhere. Actually, the outdoor fish restaurants right in the fish market look much better this year, and may now be the best bet of all.

Next it was time to check out the options for our evening fare. Our routine is as follows: First we peruse all the stalls, being entreated by all vendors to buy their fresh shrimp, flounder, pompano, grouper, and whatever else the fishermen might have brought in that day. Although there is very little to choose between and among them,this day we chose Pedro's. Pedro and his son, Michelangelo (Mike for short) filleted three flounder (in about 30 seconds), loaded us up with large shrimp, plied us with fresh asparagus, and released us at reasonable cost, with the promise to remember them the next time we visited. We'll do better than that...we'll remember them here so others can find their special little nook at the fish market. Michelangelo, who speaks good English, is quite proud of the mural he painted on the end wall of their stone market stall.


January 18

Today we drove the truck to Globe, Arizona to check out a recommended boarding kennel for Missy (our still-puppy 3 yr old Brittany) which we'll need in a week or so. We'd planned on some golf, but found the local course temporarily closed. So we took a side trip instead, following a route south on Highway 77, and looping north again back to Superior on Highway 177. What a trip! Here's a drive right out of Arizona Highways!

We stopped on impulse when we saw a virtually empty community golf course in the remote contiguous communities of Winkelman and Hayden. There's no place to "sign in" here -- you just start playing. Eventually someone will catch up with you driving a pickup or backhoe and collect the greens fee. A $15 tariff covered both of us plus cart for 9 holes. The first hole was so long the tee box was in Hayden, but the green was in Winkelman. The second hole seemed to get us back to Hayden. All in all not exactly Pebble Beach, (although our 1950's vintage cart said "Camelback Inn" on the front) but maybe the only golf course in Arizona with almost nobody on it...

The stretch of Highway 177 north from Hayden, through Kearny and into Superior has spectacular rock formations, saguarro, cholla, and other cacti spread across the colorful desert, all as if carefully designed by a famous landscape architect. While not a road for casual towing, with long steep grades of 8 to 10 %, it has to be one of the great side trips in Arizona. And it seems almost totally undiscovered. There's a gravel road north of Kearny which leads over to Florence. Since we'd love to go back and see a bit more of Kearny on another day trip, we'll probably weave that into some sort of a loop trip next time...