Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Friday, February 21, 2014

Escapee campground in Yuma....Our new desert home! Feb 10-16

Feb 10..... Not much going on today....slept late,  nursed a little sunburn from yesterday, did some grocery shopping, watched Olympics and ate popcorn in the activity center. Second night in a row of dry camping, waiting for a site to open up. We also had to buy two new chassis batteries for the RV because they faded quickly during our first night of dry camping, and did not hold a good charge.

Feb. 11....today was the last tour of the month at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, which is just down the road from us. We went down and watched demonstrations by the Marines and rode a bus around the base to different areas. We saw Military Police dogs do a demonstration of their training, discipline and attack skills, which was my favorite. We also saw a hand to hand combat demonstration, the Marine Corps obstacle course and fitness test course demonstration, and we were out on the runway looking at helicopters and Harrier jets, with their pilots there to answer questions. We were done around noon, so we came 'home' to move the RV onto a vacated site with all the hookups. Moving was quick and easy, so I decided to hop on the bike, and do an exploration of the area. I ended up riding 29.22 miles in 2:19, doing a loop around the east end of town on AZ 195, finding US 95, on the north side of town, which is the way we will leave when we head to Quartzite, and then though town on a much more direct route that I took when I rode into Yuma following the GPS course. Agriculture surrounds the town, with never ending fields of vegetables that are hitting their  harvest time, so workers and white school buses pulling portapotties behind them are everywhere. I learned that when all this lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and alfalfa are harvested, the watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe crop will be planted. Whatever parts of the outskirts of town were not fields, were military property, with signs warning of unexploded bombs, laser danger, and such, hanging on the fences.

Stepping out onto the runway

Dog running down an escaping "criminal"

Military dog in action

Jets sitting on tarmac

Bomb squad robots

Nose of the Harrier jet

Harrier jet



Marines running the obstacle course


Sharing the road

Acres and acres of cabbage!


Sunset view from our motor home

Feb12....tourist day.... Went to the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, which was also the county's visitor center. We spent the afternoon looking at history. Boats actually used to come up the Colorado River to Yuma, before the dams and canals, to deliver goods from the Gulf  of California. Now the river is not even the size of Big Wheeling Creek, but the canal system is immense, and seems to run almost independently of the river flow. We saw what was basically a fort where the towns residents and US Army created Yuma from desert.  The Quartermaster Depot was the main storage for the military supplies that were sent to forts in five states!

Inside the main storage area for the quartermaster

This old car is sitting on part of the old wooden road that people took across the desert!

Looking at the quartermaster storage building

US and Arizona flags

Old wagons from the late 1800s and early 1900s


Feb 13....63 miles in 4:25.... It was only supposed to go up to 88 today, and the next few days are going to set records for the earliest it has ever hit 90 in February around here, so I decided to ride to Mexico, at San Luis. I started out by riding north, heading through town on business I-8, and heading south on US 95. I came to county 16th street on the west end of town, which I could have gotten on right away, but I decided to add on the extra 10 miles through town, because it was a great day to ride through town! 95 south was nothing but agriculture, with two little, very Hispanic towns, adding some scenery. I ran into about two dozen bikers who were members of the Foothills Bicycle Club, a bunch of geezers who ride three times a week. They were headed the other way, but I circled around and quizzed one of them for a while, before I went back on my own way. I made it to San Luis, and stopped 100 yards from the border crossing at a McDonald's. I ate a burger and a Coke, while watching Mexican migrant workers walk back to their country from work. Hispanic music was playing loudly from a sidewalk clothing store, and there was a lot to look at. After my break, I headed out of town on Juan Sanchez Blvd/AZ 195. This turned into a beautiful separated four lane highway, with an eight foot shoulder ( US 95 had a smaller, dirtier shoulder, but it was still decent, even though traffic was busy with produce trucks and school buses. ) 195 headed east ( with a beautiful view of a mountain range in front of me), south of Yuma, then turned north. It passed the new Yuma Federal Prison, which no one is escaping from, by the way, then ran along military bombing range property. That property was also signed as a flat tailed horned lizard management area. So, I spent the rest of my ride  looking, unsuccessfully, for a flat tailed horned lizard. I didn't know what it looked like, but I figured I'd know it if I saw one. I didn't. It didn't make sense to me that they were managing the population on a bombing range! Maybe it's an unused range now. The day ended with an hour or two at the campground pool, where I found Pam in her sun tanning mode.

We are in peak lettuce and cabbage season down here


Field workers get transported to the fields in these white buses - usually they are towing a portapotty too!


Harvesting and bailing hay

The Border!

Tecate is a Mexican beet

Not a big population in San Luis!

Brightly painted apartment complex in San Luis

On Main St looking towards Mexico

Cars heading into Mexico

Note the little blue building - we see these all over.  They are selling ice and salt free water

This coyote didn't make it all the way across the road!

Riding north through the desert



Looking across the desert towards the mountains

Feb 14....I rode into town, met my valentine at the Quartermaster Depot park, we rode the paved trails along the Colorado River to the east end wetlands to the west end park, then I dropped by bike off at Johnny Yuma's Bike Shop to have wheels, trued, and new front and back tires put on. Pam met me at the shop and I took my back up bike, the 1979 Soma that has been riding on the bike rack on the back of the RV, for a ride the rest of the way home. That bike rolls so well, but the metal frame is very unforgiving to my joints. Still, it was nice to see that the old girl could still scoot. I rode about 36 miles total, but my GPS didn't start up for the last leg of the trip, so I'm guessing.

Pam stopped at the Peanut Patch and loved this sign!!!  And no, I didn't buy any!


Feb15....Today was Yuma River Daze in historical downtown Yuma, so we spent the afternoon strolling amongst the craft tents set up in the middle of the street, and listening to the bands playing on the stage. The highlight of the day was lunch at Lutes Casino, which really isn't a casino. It's an old, old building with a bunch of cool stuff on the walls, a few pool tables and domino tables, and a line out the door. I figured we had to eat there because it was the only place that was busy, so there had to be something special about it. When we got in, we sat right next to a guy playing the piano for tips, and he was really good, setting the tone for an old western saloon type atmosphere. For the first time in my life, I ordered a 'Lutes Special,' which had a hamburger AND a hot dog on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and pickle. It was great! WHY didn't I think of that sooner? I would have been eating that my whole life! Maybe I have, but just don't remember.


The weather has been so warm that we have taken the roof off of the Jeep and enjoy the breeze and the sun!

Our piano man!  Take a good look at the suspenders!

The bar....

The bus boy (seriously!)


Ocean to ocean highway bridge - it is one lane!  You sit at a traffic light until it's your turn to go!

Mike pretending that he is the engineer of the train!

Hey!  If he can drive an aircraft carrier and fly a jet (remember?), why not?!!

Posing with HIS train

This big Saguaro cactus is outside the laundry room at our campground!  We have a bunch of them in the campgrounds.

And the bridge lights up at night

Feb16.....While we were at the festival yesterday, Pam signed us up for a four wheel drive and hike tour with a ranger at the KOFA  (King of Arizona, named after an old gold mine) National Wildlife Refuge, which is north of us, towards Quartzite, on US 95. The drive up there gave me a chance to look at a 70 mile stretch of the Sonoran Desert that I will be riding when we leave Yuma.  (It is as desolate as anyplace I have ridden.)  We left  at 8:30 am with no roof on the Jeep, and even with a sweatshirt, a jacket, and two shirts, I froze on the way up there. (Can you say wimp??!!) It was probably in the 50's or even 60's with a 60 mph wind chill! By the time we got there, it was warm enough, but definitely the most overcast day of our stay here. They say the sun shines 360 days a year here, but I don't think this was one of them. The overcast saved us as we Jeeped out into the wilderness, because we would have cooked in the open sunshine. We rode out into the refuge on a very primitive road for about two miles, before we parked, and walked about a half a mile to the 'horse tanks.' The horse tanks are natural ponds formed by rock out in the middle of a very arid desert.  They fill up whenever there is rain, which isn't often. They average about three inches of rain a year here, but the tanks were 3/4 full with cool water. They were about the size of a backyard swimming pool, or smaller. It was amazing that there could be water out there, but that's what made them worth seeing. We walked back to the Jeep, had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and set out in a different direction to look at some Indian artifacts and dwellings, all the while learning about all the plants and how they survive, all the different types of cactus, and the birds and animals of the area. The trip pretty much took the whole day, but we had time to take a little detour, through the Yuma Proving Ground, where the army tests artillery, and all types of equipment and machines in desert conditions. We also checked out the Imperial Dam, one of the six dams on the Colorado River, that produce electricity and regulate irrigation. This dam is the origin of the All-American Canal, which irrigates this entire area and makes all the agriculture possible. It is so weird to have the Colorado River running right through this massive desert, but the river is the only reason anything is here.
Looking out over the Sonora Desert in the KOFA Wildlife Refuge

As a kid, I always thought the desert was all sand, but this is sand, gravel, rocks, scrub plants and Saguaro and other cacti.


This is a "teddy bear" cactus.  It reproduces by dropping the balls on its ends.  The needles will stick to you like glue!  No we are not speaking from experience!


This big cactus with the arms is 150 or more years old!

More teddy bear cacti

The ranger traveled in the white truck and we followed.  No one else showed up for the session, but it was very enjoyable!


"Beaver tail" cactus getting ready to bloom

This one is starting to bloom!

The ranger brought along a big horn sheep skull for us to check out

It was VERY heavy!

Looking down into the horse tanks - can you see our guide down there?

No clue what kind of lizard..... Tirzah, can you help us???

Here's a close-up

The road we were driving on!

After lunch, we hiked out to another set of tanks.



The dark rocks are volcanic debris.


Guide and Pam sitting at Native American remains - this hole is where the women would grind their grains and seeds. 

Mike found this little frog sitting on the bottom of this very deep hole (he couldn't jump out)

Mike set the little guy free in one of tanks

A century plant was blooming - it wasn't really a flower, it more of a lacy "weed kinda" thing

This hardy cactus was growing on the rocky hillside

The Sonora Desert is beautiful, and we kept looking for John Wayne and the Calvary to come galloping over the hill!

Mike and Pam sitting in Native American cave - they would live here and the many holes that you can see on the floor are where the women ground the grain.

The view from the cave!


Yuma Proving Ground entrance

Main gate at the Proving Ground


They have an outdoor museum with tanks and other items

There were tanks from WWII up to the Gulf War

Anti-aircraft guns and missiles

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