Border Crossing and Sandhills

It was difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for leaving our comfy spot at Pancho Villa State Park to move to a gravel parking lot with a pit toilet. The wind was howling! It was cold and generally pretty crappy. We were lured into staying another day by the idea of sneaking across the Border into Palomas MX for a look-see and lunch at the Pink Store, where we were assured the food was good, beer was cheap, and the mariachi band would play all afternoon.

John unloaded the bikes from the truck, and we set off on a brisk three mile ride to the Border. It doesn’t take long when a screaming north wind is at your back! We chained our bikes to a bench on the US side of the Border, and strolled across like we did it every day.20170130_192312.jpg Never got a look from anyone. The Pink Store is a half-block from the Border and can not be missed. Its PeptoBismol color stands out in a row of dental offices, eye surgery clinics, and pharmacies.wp-1485829527440.jpg Cross-border healthcare services is big business in these border towns.

Lunch was mediocre, and the acclaimed mariachi band was horrible! The three guitarists were OK, and the guy with the violin or fiddle tried hard, although he had a hard time keeping up. Hilarity ensued when the trumpeter blasted away. Omg – he was absolutely terrible!! If the rest of the band was playing in B-Flat, he was playing in D-Flat minor. We had a hard time not laughing. Perhaps that was their method from keeping the 100% senior citizen American crowd from hanging around. In our case, it worked.

We wandered around, checking out the sights.

A huge Pancho Villa Statuewp-1485829508744.jpg

Villa and Black Jack Pershing shaking hands before they became enemies.wp-1485829540191.jpg John tried to broker peace, but that apparently didn’t work.

A beautiful old Catholic Church.wp-1485829473829.jpg A bare playground at an elementary school jammed right up against the Border fence.wp-1485829494999.jpg

Lots of other interesting sights.wp-1485829558736.jpgwp-1485829449863.jpgIt was interesting – my first trip across the Border since a Cancun vacation 25 years ago. I swore at that time I’d never vacation in Mexico again. The Have/HaveNot gap is too large to be comfortable for me.

The next to day, we departed for Whitewater Draw under improved weather conditions. Whitewater Draw is a wildlife sanctuary in the extreme SE corner of Arizona. It’s the place where thousands of sandhill cranes winter. We visited in 2015, and have been eager to reprise this trip ever since. Here’s a link to our first visit. Check out the video for sure.

It could not have been more different. Alhough there were fewer cranes in 2015, the circumstances were far different. There was much more water in the Draw. The cranes stand in the water all night, probably as protection from predators (there are lots of coyotes around). This year, there was very little water, and the cranes were spread out over a huge area, not massed into one big clump as before. We watched them arrive at dusk (they fly out to feed all day long).

Groups of up to a few hundred flew in from all directions – the noise is amazing. If you look closely at the photos, the dark sections in the middle are cranes – thousands of them. wp-1485829880819.jpg In 2015, we were there in March. Better, longer light (warmer!), and the cranes weren’t spread over such a great distance.

We couldn’t wait until morning to see the Grand Departure, thinking it would be the same as 2015. Temps were in the 20s, as we huddled with our coffee on the observation deck at 5:30am. We could hear the kerfuffle of groups of dozens or hundreds of cranes arising from the water to fly out, but it was too dark to see them at all. But the sounds….! Incredible. I did get a few shots, and a few short video snips, but it was a completely different experience than 2015. By the time it was light enough to see, most of the birds had departed.

wp-1485829794132.jpgWe were disappointed. We hung out for two hours, until we were so frozen that it was painful to shuffle back to the Fireball, parked in our little corner of the parking lot, where we had slept for the night.wp-1485829920423.jpg We warmed up with more coffee, and headed to Tucson, our final stop before heading up to a mountain cabin for a month in Green Valley. Have to admit, even though we were disappointed this year, it’s a magnificent experience. And Whitewater Draw at dawn and dusk is gorgeous.wp-1485829911236.jpgAfter two quick nights in Tucson, tucked amid the saguaros at Gilbert Ray campground,wp-1485833591322.jpgwe’ve moved on to a cabin we rented for a month in Madera Canyon, just south of Green Valley.  Jackpot!! It’s the most incredible location. We’ve got a huge wraparound deck, complete with swing and numerous bird feeders. Space to move – John can actually stand up straight without bumping his head on the ceiling. That’s a treat for him. Photos to follow next time as we get settled in.

Ahhhhh, life is pretty good. We are lucky, and we know it.

6 thoughts on “Border Crossing and Sandhills

  1. Loved the videos of the cranes, they make me wish that it was spring here in Michigan so that I could see and hear a few of them in person.

    I also liked the description of the mariachi band, it was good for a chuckle or two.

    I haven’t been to the border area many times, but I dislike it a lot, everything looks so run down and impoverished, at least you found a few statues and pretty buildings where you were.

    Your rented cabin sounds like heaven on earth, I’m looking forward to a few photos of the area.


    • It won’t be too long before the cranes make their way back to Michigan, Jerry. And, with any luck, you won’t have to freeze your ass off to grab some great photos.

      I suppose bad bands play around the globe, but this was one of the most cringe-worthy I’ve heard in a long time. John and I had a hard time trying to behave ourselves, so as not to offend anyone.

      You’d like this cabin. Along the huge deck, we’ve got four birdfeeders – hummingbird, suet, thistle, and sunflower. Haven’t seen anything too exotic yet.

      Our weather has gotten promising. Nearly into the mid 70s down in the valley, but cooler up in the canyon. Our house is around 5200′.

      Thanks for checking in. Hope your weather turns around, and that you have time to enjoy it when it does.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So, join us! We’re stalled in AZ for a month, but are continuing March 1. That gives you and Sue plenty of time to catch up. Plus, I KNOW that the Nixon Museum and Library is on your top 5 wanna go places to visit, right? Coming up in March! Are you in Florida, living the good retired life yourselves?


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