May 29, 2021 Austin TX

Today we had a nice tour of Austin. Our friends Supachai and Pae spent the day taking us around town. We visited the local “yacht club” which is located on a reservoir in the hills above Austin. It is quite a drop down to the reservoir and the yacht club has installed a funicular to help you get up and down. The boats are not quite up to what we saw in Monaco, but there were some nice ones.

Part of the brewery complex.

Our next stop was lunch at the largest brewery I have ever seen. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and in the case of this brewery I will have to agree. Ton and I split a hamburger and tried a beer. They were both excellent. The place was very crowded. The local High Schools are having there graduations this weekend and there were a number of families with the graduates in their robes there for a celebratory meal.

Both of the breweries we have visited have had re-purposed Airstreams. The first brewery had converted theirs into a bathroom, this one had been converted to a mobile beer dispenser.

We decided to take a siesta for the afternoon which allowed me to watch Chelsea beat Man City in the Champions League final. Unfortunately, the game was a little boring from a neutral perspective, though I suspect the fans of Chelsea and Man City were on pins and needles.

Gulf of Mexico oysters on the half shell with your choice of American or Thai sauce to flavor them.

Supachai suggested a Thai/American seafood fusion restaurant for dinner. It was excellent and the owner has done a good job of merging the two foods without compromising on the flavors. The somtum (papaya salad) was excellent and authentic to the Thai tastes.

The back of the state capitol building.

After dinner we headed to downtown Austin to experience the nightlife. We started by taking a walk around the state capitol grounds. It is one of the larger state capitols befitting the size of Texas. The building is built of a pink granite and silhouetted against the sunset was quite beautiful. The amount of security around the doors to the building was striking though the grounds remained open to the public.

6th street in Austin just as the police were closing it to traffic to allow it to become a pedestrian zone.

Our last stop for the evening was 6th street which is where the younger crowd goes for nightlife. It is a four block area with over 40 bars featuring all kinds of live music. We arrived just as the police were putting up barriers to close the street and convert it to pedestrian only. We were going to go in to one of the bars, but Ton had left her purse at home and did not have an ID to prove she was 21 so we could not get in anywhere!

The most striking thing today was the crowds. This is the first post covid shot holiday and people are returning to normal behavior. The crowds downtown were dense and no one was making an attempt to social distance. Some people were wearing masks outside but they were in a distinct minority.

May 28, 2021 Bee Cave TX

Today was the shortest drive of the trip, and very nearly a disaster. On the 48 mile trip to our friends Pae and Supachai we were following a pick up truck down a two lane road with a center third lane to make left turns, a common set up on busy two lane roads in Texas. The truck was traveling at about 45 mph on a road with a 70 mph speed limit and had his emergency flashers on because of the slow speed. We ended up following him for about 5 miles, and were the first vehicle behind him, immediately behind us was a semi-truck, and behind the semi were 8 or 10 cars.

Coming to an intersection the pick up truck pulled into the center lane which is used for left turns. Just as I went to pass him on the right, he swung in front of me from the center lane and turned right. I initiated a full brake panic stop and swerved to the right and just missed him. The semi-truck behind us also went into full panic stop and swerved left to miss us, but caught the left corner of our bumper, and scrapped the paint on the back of the house on Scout.

We pulled Scout over to the shoulder and the truck driver pulled his rig in behind us to look at the damage. The guy who caused the accident slowed down for a few seconds after he heard the semi hit us, but decided to not stop. The only significant damage was to our aluminum bumper that we mount two storage bumpers on. It had a hole punched in it from one of the lugs from the wheel of the truck. Unfortunately it is a specialized bumper and expensive to replace.

Jaime the truck driver then told me that he needed to call the police because as a commercial vehicle he needed a police report for the accident and could not just exchange insurance information. We waited on the side of the road for about 20 minutes and a sheriff showed up. He took a quick look at things, and then told us that because it was a commercial vehicle accident the investigation had to be done by a State Trooper. He called the Texas State Police and asked for a trooper who was dispatched from San Angelo. The sheriff explained that San Angelo was about 45 minutes away, apologized and left Jaime and I there to wait on our own.

It turns out Jaime is a really nice guy, and we had a wide ranging conversation from the stupidity of the guy who had us talking to each other on the side of the road in Texas, to what it was like to drive a semi-truck, to climate change. He did say one thing that got my attention, he had just dropped his load and his trailer was empty, he said if he had been full he probably would have hit us square on, because he would not have been able to slow down, or maneuver fast enough under load to almost miss us.

The Texas State Trooper eventually arrived, took our statements, assessed that neither of us were at fault for the accident, but that the pick up truck was the cause. He provided us with the accident report and after an hours delay were on our way.

The goatherd at the Jester King brewery near Austin.

We spent the rest of the day with our friends Pae and Supachai. They took us to a nice barbeque restaurant for lunch. After lunch we went to a local brewery which is on a working farm. As part of the farm the brewery keeps a herd of about 60 goats, we got a treat as the goats were out of their pen and working in a field. I met my first goatherd ever, and he told us about the hierarchy among the goats, the alpha is a female, and even the bigger male goats do not mess with her.

A slight correction to yesterdays post about the wildflowers. There are two flowers that look similar the Indian Blanket I talked about yesterday and this flower called a Mexican Hat. Both are really beautiful.

We finished the day by cooking some steaks on the back porch of Pae and Supachai’s house during a big thunderstorm. It was a nice relaxing way to end an unexpected stressful day.

May 27, 2021 Canyon Lake TX

We really enjoyed Pecan Valley RV Park so we kind of lingered around in the morning enjoying a cup of coffee. Just as we were finally getting around to packing up the owners came by to ask how we enjoyed our stay. Even though they were getting ready for their first big weekend of the year they took the time to have a nice conversation about traveling. Their operation is really first class and the atmosphere is really relaxing. I hope we are back thru the area again in the future so we can enjoy another stay in Pecan Valley.

Reluctantly leaving Pecan Valley. Ton made me stop to shoot the sign on the right side.

We had a relatively short drive today of just under 100 miles. We have talked about this in the past but one of the biggest differences between traveling in Europe and the US is the distances. In Europe a 100 mile day would be a fairly big move, in the US we consider it a short hop. Also today the majority of the trip was on back roads which is much more enjoyable.

One of many fields covered in the Indian Blanket wild flower.

The wild flowers are blooming and we have really been taken with a flower called Indian Blanket. The fields all over are covered with them and they are really quite beautiful.

We arrived at our next stop pretty early so we decided to get out and explore the area a little before settling in. The Texas hill country has some wineries so we picked the highest rated one near us and headed over. As we pulled up the winery looked really nice so we were pretty excited.

Art from the tasting room.

The tasting room was also first class and would have fit in any of the wine regions on the west coast. We were really interested to see what the Texas take on wine was going to be and what grape varietals would work in the hot humid temperatures here. So after tasting the first white we asked the server where they sourced the grapes and what varietals grew in Texas. We were quite disappointed when she responded that the white grapes were from California and the red grapes were from Washington. The wines were drinkable but on the whole mediocre. However, the tasting fee was on par with some of the very best wineries in Walla Walla (an upscale Washington vino cultural area), and more than the fees we paid in the Yakima Washington area where we suspect they source the grapes. So our first Texas wine tasting was a bit of a bust.

The marina next to our campground for the night.

They lock the gates at the military facility we are staying on at 6pm, so we hustled back for an early dinner. After dinner we took a walk down to the lake next to the campground. It was really quiet here tonight though they are expecting a big crowd tomorrow for the Memorial Day weekend.

May 26, 2021 Junction TX

We knew as we lingered in New Mexico that we were going to have to cover a lot of miles in one day at some point. So we decided today was the day to get that out of the way. We jumped across West Texas covering 550 miles today almost all on I-10. As long days go it was not too bad, traffic was reasonable and the weather was mild. West Texas looked pretty empty and dry, it is not the most visited part of the state, but I am sure if we had more time we could find a lot of interesting things to do there

The pecan orchard next to our campsite for the night. If you look very closely in the back center of the photo are two deer.

We are now in what is called the hill country of Texas as our neighbors told us. Originally I had a place in mind that sounded reasonable but bare bones. The more we talked about it we decided to see if there were any alternatives. Ton came up with a place called Pecan Valley RV park. It is a beautiful place located on a Pecan Orchard next to the Llanos River. When we arrived the owners met us and showed up to our spot, they offered us some candied pecans to sample and told us they had more for sale if we were interested, we now have a pound. The owners have free range chickens running around and goats penned. They have a couple of deer feeders on site that somehow dispatches food for the deer at a set time. The deer are now well trained to show up at 5pm and 6pm for their evening feedings.

Some of the deer who came into the campground for their evening feed. The two in the foreground were much more interested in munching on the bush by the downed tree than whatever the feeder was giving.

After a long day we sat down with a beer and had our dinner while watching 16 deer grazing and gamboling around 100 yards from scout. It was a great end to a long day of driving.

Ton liked this Texas shaped and sized barbeque.

May 25, 2021 White Sands National Park NM

Today we visited the newest National Park in the United States. White Sands National Park was designated a National Park last year, prior to that it had been a National Monument since the 1930’s. The upgrade means more funding for infrastructure.

The drive over was a relatively easy 250 miles on I-25. Traffic was light and more importantly there were no 35 mph cross winds. The last 30 miles are thru the White Sands Missile Testing Facility run by the Army. The park is surrounded by the missile testing facility and is sometimes closed due to missile testing.

No it is not snowing, that is the gypsum sand in the National Park.

We arrived at the visitors center right off the main road and our first impression was a little underwhelming. The sand was white, but it was full of the normal desert scrub brush so it was interesting but not impressive. After getting our park passport stamped we headed in on the entrance road and came into the real park and it was indeed impressive.

The dunes are up to 100 feet high.

The white sand is caused by the erosion of gypsum deposits on the surface. There are two places like this in the Chihuahua Desert the one here and a national park in Mexico.

The mounds in the center are solid gypsum, the dunes are caused by the erosion of the solid gypsum.

The gypsum deposits cover 250 square miles here. The dunes are incredibly bright and if you stay here a while you need to take care of your eyes because the light is so intense it can cause temporary blindness.

The road is down to the surface gypsum. It must be a constant battle to keep it clear from the dunes in the fore front.

The gypsum has a really different texture to it, it feels more like talcum powder than sand. It is also a little easier to walk on than sand, as it seems to support our weight better. Also because the white reflects the sun the ground is cooler than regular sand. One of the fun activities here is to sand sled, sliding down the hills on Frisbee like sleds.

These Yucca Cactus have taken root in the dunes. We were luck as many of the Yuccas were flowering. The flowers are edible, and supposedly delicious when fried with an egg.

Despite the inhospitable environment there is a surprising amount of plant and wild life in the park. Many of the plants have adapted to grow quickly when they are covered by sand so they can return to the surface.

King of the hill.

The newest national park is a great addition to the system. We hope in the future that they develop a campground in the park as it would be really cool to camp right in the sand for a couple of nights. Right now camping is limited to tents. I am guessing that one of the reasons there is no camping is due to the surrounding missile testing range.

May 24, 2021 Santa Fe NM

We had visited Santa Fe about 15 years ago and we had very pleasant memories of it. It was the original city in what became New Mexico and has been the capital of the region for over 300 years under both the Spanish, Mexican , and US governments. It has a rich cultural heritage and some very interesting architecture near its central plaza.

A colorful set of mailboxes in Madrid.

There are two ways to get from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. In the morning we opted for the Turquoise Trail Scenic Highway. We seek out the roads that have been named Scenic Highways and have had great experiences traveling these roads so we were excited to try another one. About halfway on the highway was a town called Madrid which was described as an old coal mining town that had been converted into an artists colony after the mine closed. Madrid was an interesting stop with a lot of homes that had been converted into artist and artisan studios. We enjoyed a walk around the town. Unfortunately the pandemic seems to have hit the town pretty hard as about 25% of the shops were closed and had for sale signs in the windows.

One of the many small shops in Madrid, this one sells handmade cowboy boots.

The first half of the Turquoise Trail into Madrid had been unimpressive, so we assumed the scenic part would start after Madrid. We were disappointed, this is the least scenic, scenic highway we have traveled on in the US.

The church in Los Cerrillos a small town on the Turquoise Trail.

New Mexico is famous for it’s green and red chile salsas particularly the green chile salsa. Fortunately for us our neighbors for the first two nights were native New Mexicans and they told us that their favorite restaurant was called La Choza and that they ate their every couple of weeks. After a bit of an adventure finding a legal place to park Scout we arrived at La Choza about 12:30pm thinking we had missed the lunch rush only to be told the wait would be 30 to 45 minutes. Ton had enchiladas with green and red chile, and I had a combo plate of a chile relleno, and a dish I had never heard of called Carne Adovada. It was all delicious and the spice level was high enough to even impress Ton. The Carne Adovada was pork mixed with chile sauce, oregano, and secret spices. It was delicious and Ton enjoyed the sauce enough to compare it favorably with a Thai dish which is a high complement.

Ton remembered this shop from our last trip and it was just as nice this time.

I received some ideas on where we could park Scout within reasonable distance of old town from the waiter, and we were off to see if our memories of Santa Fe would stand the test of time. While Santa Fe had clearly undergone a pretty good growth spurt since we were last here, the old town retained its charm and won us over again.

This is a statue of the first Native North American Saint.

We finished the day with a quick stop at Santa Fe brewing and the Costco in Albuquerque.

May 23, 2021 Albuquerque NM

We slept in today. Between the long drive and the wind yesterday we were pretty worn out. As we were working on breakfast I realized that today was the end of the Premier League season, so a quick search of the TV and we found the Liverpool game. Our morning was set, we sat back enjoyed our coffees and watched the game.

The Sawmill Market was a restored historic building with a bunch of cool restaurants.

After the game was over we decided to head into the old town in Albuquerque. When we parked Scout on a side street we saw an interesting place up the street called the Sawmill Market. We decided to check it out and it is a historic building that has been converted into a bunch of restaurants and small food shops. It really reminded Ton of similar places we have seen in Europe, particularly one in Lyon, and another Turin. We were tempted to try a couple of the restaurants but were holding out for a special dinner we had planned later.

Ton loved this combination of the adobe building, roses and the window with bars in the old town of Albuquerque.

The town was founded by the Spanish in 1706. The old town is built around a typical Spanish colonial square with small roads branching off of it. The old town is full of artist galleries, tourist stores, and restaurants. It is a nice walk and the old adobe buildings are interesting to look at.

This church dates from the late 1700’s and is made of adobe. It replaced the original church which was built in 1706.

We popped into the Catholic Church which was built in the 1790’s. It is a Spanish Mission style church made of adobe. The walls of the church are over 5 feet thick to help keep it cool during the hot summer. While it is small compared to the giant cathedrals we have been seeing in Europe, we were quite taken with it.

Ton loves cactus and this flowering one was lovely. She also liked the mariachi’s on the roof of the restaurant.

One of our friends in Oregon takes care of our mail when we travel. She lived in Albuquerque about 25 years ago, and when we told her that we were visiting Albuquerque she told us her favorite Chinese Restaurant in the US is here. As she is from Taiwan we took that as a good recommendation. We had planned to go there for a late lunch but they did not open until 3 pm, so it turned into an early dinner. When we arrived a little before 3 we were the only customers, but the waitress was very friendly and handed us a large book like menu. After we told her our friend had recommended the place she grabbed the book, took one laminated page out of it and said this is the menu for Chinese people. After consulting with her we picked duck and a seafood hot pot. Ton pronounced it the best duck she has had in the US, and the seafood hot pot was excellent. Thank you Miriam for a great recommendation you were right it is one of the best Chinese restaurants we have been to. If you are ever in Albuquerque check out East Ocean Restaurant

May 22, 2021 Albuquerque NM

Today is going to be a short one as the day was mostly spent driving about 350 miles in a constant 35 mile cross wind. The day started with a surprise when I realized the water hose had frozen over night. I knew it had gotten cold and turned the heater on in Scout about midnight. In the morning I joined 3 other RV owners who were planning to leave in hauling our hoses into the sun to melt the 25 ft ice cube inside.

I spent most of the day wrestling Scout down I-40 along with a surprising amount of traffic. The trip took about an hour longer than planned due to the traffic and the need to slow down due to the wind. On top of that I forgot that we changed time zones crossing from Arizona to New Mexico. So instead of arriving about 3 pm it was nearly 5pm when we parked for the night.

Another Eagles fan standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona.

Our one stop for the day was in Winslow Arizona. The other day one of our long drive conversations was about which 5 albums we would take to a desert island. The only one that was on both of our lists was The Eagles Greatest Hits. So when we set off Ton said we had to swing thru Winslow to visit the corner. If you are an Eagles fan you will know immediately what I am talking about. If you are not than I will quote you a famous line from their first hit “Take it Easy”, the line is “Standin on a corner in Winslow Arizona.”

The corner in Winslow Arizona. Bonus points if you know the significance of the red truck on the right side of the picture.

Recognizing a good source of revenue the town of Winslow has dedicated a corner to the Eagles and it draws quite a few people into town. In addition to the park, there are two stores dedicated to The Eagles and Route 66 memorabilia. After doing our part to contribute to the economy of Winslow we were back on our way.

This shack is billed as the “Worlds Smallest Church”.

We are settled in for the night, but it feels like we have swapped our RV for a boat, as the constant buffeting of the winds has us rocking around like we are at sea. The wind is supposed to continue all night so hopefully we won’t get seasick.

May 21, 2021 Wupatki NM AZ

In the middle of the night we were surprised to hear rain on the roof of Scout. The weather man on the radio yesterday was adamant that while the winds were going to be steady at 35mph with gusts to 50mph there was going to be no rain. He was right about the wind, which for the last 24 hours has been extremely strong, but he was very wrong about the rain. It turns out the rain was a good thing as it prevented today from turning into a sand storm because of the steady high winds.

Today we picked as our destination two National Monuments that share a common road, one is a natural feature, and the other is a historic site. Our first stop on the tour was Sunset Canyon National Monument which is a volcanic cinder cone and lava lake. We swung thru the visitors center which is still closed due to Covid restrictions, but the bookstore was open so we got some information about the two monuments to plan our day.

The Lava Lake at Sunset Crater National Monument. The Sunset Crater Volcano is the cinder cone in the background.

Our first stop was the lava lake which was very similar to formations we have in Oregon. The cone was formed about 1000 years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions in the area and is about 1000 feet tall. The lake was formed at the same time when lava surged to the surface thru a fault and settled into low ground. While the surface of the cone is volcanic, it is quite different than the lava in the lake due to how it emerged. We enjoyed a short hike thru the lava, and stopped at a very windy overlook to take in the Cinder Cone.

The Sunset Crater Volcano.

Wupatki National Monument is a series of Native American dwellings that were inhabited from about 1100 to 1250 AD. At it’s peak about 2000 people lived in the area practicing low water farming and acting as a trading hub for surrounding Native American people. After 1250 the dwellings were abandoned and most of the people left the area as the conditions were too harsh even for low water farming.

Wukoki Pueblo. The interior of the building on the left is very well preserved.

The environment in the area and the lack of people due to the harshness of the surroundings caused the dwellings to be well preserved and unmolested when they were placed under the care of the park service in the 1930’s. Our first stop was the Wukoki Pueblo which was the home for about 3 families. It is located on top of rocks and was built to 3 stories. Of all of the pueblos it is the most accessible to the public. You can actually go into some of the interior rooms which was fun.

Wupatki Pueblo. The circular feature on the right is believed to have been for religious functions.

The highlight of the monument is Wupatki Pueblo which was the religious and central trading area for the region. It has over 300 rooms and a ball court and religious meeting area. It is fascinating to walk the exterior to see all of the various rooms, and to try to guess the purpose of each room. I found it interesting that sports were important enough to these ancient people that a dedicated structure was built to host the games.

A close up of the Wupatki Pueblo showing the size and intricacy of the masonry.

We stopped at one more pueblo where the wind was blowing so strong that I had to hold on to Ton so that she could steady herself against the wind to take pictures. I have never experienced such strong winds over an entire day anywhere in the world. It was really relentless. We were each knocked off balance several times during the day by gusts around 50 mph. The only other times I have seen winds like these were during hurricanes or severe storms. Today we had the winds of a storm on a bright and clear day.

Another view of the Wupatki Pueblo.

May 20, 2021 Grand Canyon NP AZ

Yesterday we decided to head east a couple of hundred miles to Flagstaff AZ. Our base for the next couple of days will be Camp Navajo which is operated by the Arizona National Guard. When we arrived I missed the turn into the campground and ended up down a pretty rough road before I conceded that I must have missed the turn. Eventually we found the camp and got the next to last spot available.

Mather Point near the visitors center at Grand Canyon NP

After lunch we decided that a quick trip out to the Grand Canyon would be a nice way to spend the afternoon. We are lucky to have the flexibility to just drop into the Grand Canyon on a whim. On the way there we were trying to remember how many times we have visited the Grand Canyon and we believe that today was the fifth trip to the south rim, and we visited the north rim once.

Enjoying the view.

They are starting to open up more of the facilities but the visitors center is still closed, and a lot of the restaurants are operating as take out only. The only Park Service people we saw were a maintenance crew working on one of the bathrooms. The signs said masks were required but only a small percentage of the visitors were wearing masks.

The other big difference was the lack of foreign tourists. Usually as you walk along you hear a lot of different languages as the Grand Canyon is one of the highlights of a visit to the US for overseas tourists. Today it was overwhelmingly American English being spoken. Covid has caused Americans to rediscover the national parks. Hopefully we will be able to share the Grand Canyon again soon with visitors from overseas.

The canyon itself was magnificent as usual. It is really an awe inspiring place and I could be happy visiting it daily.

Two observations about traveling. The first night of the trip the sunset was at 8:38 we looked it up, tonight driving back from the canyon at about 7:00 I told Ton it looked like the sun was getting ready to set, I was right. We have traveled far enough south that the days are two hours shorter than in Oregon. The sun set at 7:32 today. Yesterday we were at sea level where the temperature was 101f, tonight we are at 7000 feet and the high temperature is 72f. What a difference in conditions a 200 mile drive in the same state can bring.

May 19, 2021 Lake Havasu City AZ

We had a debate about whether to stay another day. We booked two nights at the State Park, but we had no idea that the temperatures would be over 100 degrees. I called the reservation for the Arizona State Park system and they told us no same day cancellations so our debate ended.

The main attraction in Laughlin

So we decided to get the London Bridge out of the way before it got too hot. We headed down there about 1030 am and it was already 93F. Our initial reaction on arriving at the Bridge was is that it? They had some shops around one end of the bridge with a British theme. There were a lot of vendors renting boats, jet skis, and selling river cruises. The one that got our attention was a floating bar that went out on a two hour cruise. This one tempted us as we have never seen a floating bar before.

The floating bar we were tempted to sign up for.

When we got to the end of the waterfront we saw a sign for a water taxi to the Indian Casino on the California side of the river, and the cost was only $2 per person roundtrip. This is our kind of river cruise so after a quick lunch we were on our way to California.

The view of the harbor at Lake Havasu from the water taxi.

The ride over was nice and the combination of being on the water and the breeze from the boat cooled things down nicely. The casino was very small but it was the first non-smoking casino we have ever been to so it was the cleanest we have ever seen. After sipping on a beer we headed back to Lake Havasu.

Maybe the weirdest tourist attraction in the US.

We ended the day at a local brewery at the airport called Hangar 24. The beer was good and we soaked up their air conditioning for a couple of hours while sipping on a single beer. As we were thinking about leaving a country music duet started up. They had just moved here from Oregon and were just as shocked with the heat as we were. We enjoyed a set of their music before we had to head back and set Scout up for the evening.

May 18, 2021 Lake Havasu City AZ

Today is going to be a short one as we spent most of the day driving and when we arrived at our destination it was too hot to do much more than sit in the shade and sip cool drinks.

Our destination for the day was Lake Havasu City in Arizona. It is a relatively new vacation/snow bird destination founded in 1964 on a wide spot on the Colorado River. It is known for extreme temperatures and the London Bridge. When the founder of the town was struggling to get the towns name on the map he decided to buy the London Bridge which was in the process of being replaced by a more modern bridge in London. As the bridge was removed each piece was marked and staged to be shipped across to Arizona to be reassembled on the Colorado River. It is rumored that the founder originally thought he was buying the Tower Bridge which is the famous landmark bridge everyone knows from London and not the relatively non-descript London Bridge. As goofy as the plan sounds it worked, the London Bridge is the second most visited tourist spot in Arizona after the Grand Canyon, and it got Lake Havasu on the map.

We knew that we risked it being a little hot as temperatures in the summer can reach 115 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius). We thought it is only May so worst case would be something in the low 90’s. When we arrived it was 103F (39.4C), which even intrepid travelers like us find a bit much. So after we hooked up we hunkered down in the shade and hoped for a breeze which never came.

The shore at the beach we are staying at. The entrance to the boat ramp is at the light house in the upper left corner of the picture. While the town is called Lake Havasu it is really a wide spot in the Colorado River caused by a dam up river.

We decided to brave the heat to walk down to the river at sunset. It was a beautiful sunset over the river. This is also a big water sport playground so we watched some of the boats come in to be hauled out of the water for the day, this is always entertaining as some of the drivers technique for backing the car and trailer into the water is not so good and can result in some hilarious interaction between the driver of the boat and the driver of the trailer.

Now we are settled in and since we have access to electricity we are wimping out by running our AC to cool down Scout before bedtime. The plan is to head over to the bridge tomorrow morning before the heat gets too bad.

May 17, 2021 Tonopah NV

We were up bright and early at 5:20 am to catch the sunrise on the Alvord Desert. It lived up to its billing and was worth the early wakeup call. I also got up at about 2:30 to use the facilities and on a whim stuck my head out to look at the sky. It was absolutely fabulous. The Alvord is located over 150 miles from the nearest city, and the nearest town is over 100 miles away so the night sky is truly dark. There were thousands of stars out and the milky way was clearly visible it was spectacular, in fact it was so good that Ton did not complain when I woke her and dragged her out of bed to look at it. Unfortunately we did not bring a camera so you will have to take our word for how beautiful it was.

Sunrise on the Alvord Desert.

Since we were up, we decided to get an early start on a long days driving. Today we drove about 400 miles thru the Great Basin of Nevada. The desert here is huge and while the topography is very similar for the whole drive, large valleys at about 4000 feet elevation ranging from 15 to 20 miles across with mountains on either side of the valley around 6000 feet. It is extremely dry and the plant life is similar the whole way. Some people find it quite tedious, but Ton and I really enjoy it. There are no oh wow beautiful sites, but the shear size and distance to us is awe inspiring.

It is an extremely inhospitable place with little water and extreme temperatures so towns are very few and far between, typically around 100 miles between towns with any service such as fuel or food. All you see of people are ranches every few miles and an occasional mine. Due to the lack of population the armed forces use the area for low altitude flight training. Today we were buzzed twice by a F-35 fighter flying at 200 feet. Both time we did not see the plane until it flew straight over us. It is quite startling to be cruising along without a car in site only to have a fighter jet go straight over head at high speed. The pilot was nice enough to give us a little waggle of their wings to acknowledge scaring the heck out of us before disappearing out of site. Again no pictures as it is hard to get a shot of a jet pulling away from you at 450 knots or so.

Nice Ferrari. The person in front of me in line won the free room by rolling a three of a kind on the dice.

Tonight we have moved to the much less exotic RV park behind the casino in Tonopah Nevada which is one of the mining towns I talked about above. It seems to be having some kind of a boom as there were a lot of workers staying in town with their pick up and work trucks, a couple of the hotels that have been abandoned for years have been remodeled and reopened, the RV park behind the hotel is completely full tonight as people are starting to feel more comfortable venturing out on vacations. It does look like things are starting to move towards normal, though no one seems certain where or when they are supposed to be wearing masks.

As we were driving thru town we saw the sign for the Tonopah Brewery so our evening was planned! The Kolsch beer was really good, and the barbecue was also excellent. If you are ever in town I highly recommend them.

Bobs Big Boy is a California Icon and has featured a couple of movies. I have the stout figure but unfortunately not the hair.

May 16, 2021 Alvord Desert OR

Finally after 15 months stuck at home due to Covid we are back on the road again. Now that we are cleared to go mask less outside we decided it was time to get out again.

We had originally planned to leave a couple of days ago, but I have been waiting for my new drivers license to come in the mail. My license expired during the pandemic, and the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles for our non-American friends) was by appointment only due to COVID restrictions. Despite going on line daily I was unable to get an appointment to renew my license. I did get a letter in the mail saying that the police departments in Oregon would be lenient on expired licenses due to the pandemic, so I was not too worried in Oregon. The DMV then announced that you could renew your license on line starting on May 5th. I renewed promptly on May 5th and printed out my receipt which covered me for 30 days. After waiting 10 days for the actual license to arrive in the mail, we decided we could not wait any longer and asked our neighbor to monitor our mail. When it arrives we will arrange to have it mailed to us on the trip.

Having taken care of all of the administrative and logistics we were ready to take off this morning. We picked the Alvord Desert as our first nights destination. Spending the night parked on the floor of the dry lake bed has been on my bucket list for a while and it is more or less in the right direction.

Some of the fire damage along the Santiam River. It is by far the biggest and most intense forest fire we have ever seen.

We took a route along the Santiam river that took us thru a major forest fire from last year. We have driven thru forest fires and the aftermath of fires many times. Oregon had a particularly bad fire season and the Santiam Fire was reportedly one of the most severe ever in Oregon. Despite knowing that we were both shocked at the extent and severity of the fire damage. For over 30 miles we drove thru incredible scenes of devastation. The road has a reduced speed limit due to the thousands of fire damaged trees adjacent to the road that need to be removed. The town of Detroit that our son Dylan spent one summer as an intern with the Oregon State Parks was completely burned out. Unfortunately this may be our future, as April and May so far have been very dry and warm this year which may result in another bad fire year.

After a longer drive than I planned we arrived at the Alvord Desert about 5 pm. The Alvord Desert is not a desert (though it is located in a desert that only gets 8 inches of rain per year), but a dried lake bed that is 12 by 7 miles. It is similar to the more famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The woman’s land speed record of over 520 mph was set on the Alvord in 2019.

Scout trying to break the land speed record for RV’s. We just missed!

The Alvord is public land and when it is not being used to set world records it is open for camping, driving, landing aircraft and other activities. I have always wanted to try it out. It is in a very remote part of the state at the base of the Steens Mountains. It is about 100 miles to the nearest major town, and the last ten miles to the Lake are on gravel roads, so while the usage is unregulated, there are not a lot of people using it so common sense mostly prevails and people stay out of each others way.

Toasting our unique campsite on the Alvord Desert.

We were pretty tentative when we first arrived and only drove Scout out a short way before stopping and walking around a bit. After we were convinced that Scout would not break thru and become mired in mud, we took her on a drive across the lake bed which was pretty fun. It is amazingly flat and mostly very smooth. There were a few other people playing and we did see one small airplane doing a touch and go so it is true about the airplanes. We were having so much fun goofing around that we forgot to photograph sunset, but we are aiming for sunrise tomorrow.