Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Apache Junction, AZ: Desert Downtime in Lost Dutchman State Park!

Some RV trips are all attractions and sightseeing and going and doing, and some are just the opposite ... downtime, relaxation, lots of sighing and oohing and aahing over nature's bounty.  A visit to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, AZ, is just that ... an oasis of desert beauty just 30 minutes from Phoenix, where visitors can kick back and decompress from life's busyness.

The campsites are set at the base of the Superstition Mountains, which are beautiful by morning's first light ....

As daybreak turns into morning ....

At dusk ...

And as night falls!

And don't EVEN get me started on the gorgeous desert sunsets!


We enjoyed the special treat of a rare "lunar halo" over our campsite.  We learned from Google that halos come from high, thin cirrus clouds 20,000 or more feet above our heads.  Tiny ice crystals in the Earth's atmosphere cause the halo by both refracting (splitting the light) and reflecting (sending glints of light) at the same time.  The sky inside the halo is always darker than the rest of the sky.  These pictures do not do it justice ... it was so magical!

Lost Dutchman has a variety of hiking trails leading out from the park, most notably the famous "Flatiron" trail.  While only 6 miles round trip, the last mile includes a 2,000 foot elevation gain on a steep, difficult, unmaintained trail!  Definitely out of our league, but we enjoyed a half-day hike and picnic lunch on the Siphon Draw trail nonetheless.

After all that exertion, we earned the enjoyment of luxuries like campfires and steak on the grill!
(Like anyone actually needs an excuse for steak on the grill!)

But wait!  There's more to explore at Lost Dutchman!

How about a designated place to park your cactus?

Or, forget your watch?  There's a coyote sundial for that!

But really, the best thing about Lost Dutchman is simply enjoying the stolen moments
 of bonding with your spouse ... or your dog.  :-)

LOST DUTCHMAN, we love you!  We'll be back again soon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Madrid, NM & Meteor Crater, AZ: The Home Stretch (Days 41-42 of 42)

Our 3,116-mile journey had to come to an end, partially because we planned it that way, but mostly because we were getting a little tired of the single-ply toilet paper that RV septic systems demand.  Bring on the two-ply Charmin!  But we had two fun stops planned along the return road from Colorado: the revived-ghost-town-artists'-hamlet known as Madrid, NM (that's MAH-drid, not ma-DRID) and the world's largest and best preserved meteorite impact site, Meteor Crater, AZ.

Madrid, NM is a peculiar little place, about 30 miles south of Santa Fe.  It was formerly an abandoned ghost town, and many of the buildings in town still have that appearance, even though they are fully occupied.

Madrid has recently evolved into 305-person destination town, mostly consisting of artists and misfits who are happy walking the streets in bare feet and selling their curious wares from renovated little houses turned into shops and galleries.

Even the locals are quick to agree that they are quirky, as this poster attested, encouraging everyone to come let their "freak flag fly" in a parade, and then afterwards attend the world's smallest pub crawl (there are only 2 eatin' and drinkin' places in town, across the street from each other).

The local weather vane tells you what kind of weather to expect based on the current condition of the weather bone.

This place looks like a working diner (inside and out) but it isn't; it was actually built specifically for a scene in the 2007 biker movie "Wild Hogs" with Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy.

The one and only restaurant in town, The Hollar, is actually very highly rated and we loved their outdoor patio.  The name comes from a very-old Southern Kentucky term meaning "down the road a spell," an apt description of Madrid itself.

Madrid is SUPER-dog-friendly and we wished we had brought Bella and Sprinkles to town, as they had never before had their very own menu to choose from.

The one and only bar in town, the Mine Shaft Tavern, was relatively quiet during our visit, but supposedly very rowdy on the weekends and during numerous unusual festivals held in town.

As a 48-year Arizona native, I had never visited Meteor Crater and felt great shame. The WORLD'S largest and best-preserved meteorite impact site, and I couldn't find the time to drop by?  No way.  This travesty had to come to an end.

Even though it wasn't "earth shattering" (get it?), wasn't super "impactful" (har har), and didn't "rock our world" (the hits just keep on coming, folks!) it actually was really amazing, if just for its size if nothing else.

It is impossible to properly convey the size, but you could put 22 NFL football fields in the bottom and fill the sides with 2,000,000 fans and still have room to spare.   It's 3 miles across and a 60-story building could fit inside!

Here is one side ....

.... and here is the other.  

It was traveling 40,000 miles per hour, meaning it would have been sighted in Paris just 3 minutes before hitting in Arizona.  See that "little" rock at the arrow below, on the rim of the crater?  That rock is bigger than a house.

The meteor responsible for this hole was estimated to be 150 feet across and had enough iron-nickel to make 42,000 automobiles!  They also have a huge and modern Visitor Center with a short movie and lots of science-y educational exhibits.

Here is a "picture of a picture" from inside the Visitor Center, because it is too big to get a photo of the whole thing with my camera.  You can see the Visitor Center on the lower left, another indication of the overall size.  Amazing!

Philip and I cherished our time together in close-knit quarters (although we have to give the prize to the Missouri couple we encountered in Breckenridge who is RV'ing with their EIGHT children, all in one RV.  That might put me over the edge!).  We love the RV lifestyle and love each other, while loving seeing the U.S. up close and personal!  The kids made this pillow for the RV and gave it to Philip for Father's Day present this year ... perfect!

We returned to Scottsdale and upon opening 6 weeks worth of mail, found a letter advising that this photo of the Lucky Charm (taken between Silverton and Ouray, CO) was chosen as runner-up in a national photo contest held by Motorhome Magazine and Fleetwood RV for "truly capturing and depicting the RV lifestyle!  Nice validation to continue dragging my camera as a constant companion on our adventures.

The 2015 Summer Adventure has drawn to a close, but we have so many wonderful memories to relive. Six weeks ... 3,116 miles ... and 1 gazillion beautiful sights!  Truly a Summer Adventure to remember!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Canon City, CO: High Times and Mountain Vines (Days 38-40 of 42)

Our last Colorado destination, Canon City, had us dangling highhhh over the Arkansas River, sipping wine on the grounds of a Catholic abbey, and going to prison.  (Not really = a prison museum.  Gotcha!)  Also, the Lucky Charm had her first-ever rendezvous with roadside assistance ... it had to happen eventually!

A goodbye toast for our final stop in beautiful Colorado

The Royal Gorge Bridge is one of the world's highest suspension bridges, hanging high over the Arkansas River.  Built in 1929 for $350,000, the cost today would exceed $20 million.

The flags of all the states adorn the bridge's 1,270-foot span.

You can walk across, or catch a ride.

The Royal Rush Skycoaster is a free-fall tower that sweeps you 1,200 feet above the river below at 50 MPH:  no wonder it was named the world's scariest skycoaster.

The aerial gondolas glide 2,300 feet across the Royal Gorge on one of the longest single-span cables in the world ...

See the tiny red specks in that huge canyon?  Those are the gondolas!

...  while the ziplines are also one of the world's highest.

The zippers (on the right) are even higher than the gondolas (middle center).

All those heights made us need a drink, so we headed to the grounds of the historic Holy Cross Abbey.  As far back as 1924, the Benedictine Fathers were bottling wine, presumably for their own usage.  The modern-day winery located here has returned to that early heritage, though no Sisters or Monks will be serving you.

In the last 6 years, the winery has won over 100 awards for their 14 different varieties.

With advance notice and a valid credit card, they will happily lay out a beautiful spread and provide you with your very own wine hostess, which we desperately needed because we know absolutely nothing about wine.

Back in town, the Colorado Prison Museum is housed within a real 1930's-era women's cell block, and is filled chock-full with lots of historical items.  You go into each of the 32 cells with their unique themes and related exhibits about famous prisoners, past wardens, historic riots and escapes, and "behavior control devices" including balls and chains, cattle prods, and a whipping horse known as the "Old Gray Mare."

It is right next to an active Colorado prison that is older than the state itself, opening as a Territorial Prison in 1871, that currently houses 800 men.

Actual gas chamber used in eight different executions, the last one in 1967.

Display of confiscated weapons, some of which were noted as having been used during in-prison murders.

Amazingly detailed chess set made out of toilet paper and water (considered contraband and taken away from the inmate who spent many long hours on its construction).

Our travels leaving Canon City were not without excitement, though not of the desirable variety, as the Lucky Charm blew a rear inside tire in the middle of Nowheresville, Colorado.  Although we had to wait a couple hours for assistance, the teeny-tiny general store-slash-coffeehouse-slash-art gallery across the street kept us amused for at least part of the wait.  Here, Philip creates beautiful music to soothe our troubles away.

The repairman swore he thought Philip was Bill Clinton (a common observation) and that I (with my hair up in a messy bun and wearing my square rimless glasses) was Sarah Palin.  Why he thought Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin would be RV'ing together, I am not quite sure.  But at any rate, he took photos with both of us to show the family back home.

Back on the road for the last two days of the 2015 Summer Adventure, we are already starting to plan our 2016 summer travels to the upper Northwest, including Canada's unbelievable Banff National Park and the Calgary Stampede, the "Mardi Gras of Rodeos," a.k.a. a week-long party!  The Lucky Charm cannot be kept down!