Lake Havasu Love

Seems like we’ve had an entire week of doing nothing – but don’t think I’m complaining. Not so. But, we’ve been living in near-luxury at Lake Havasu State Park (AZ), in a site with both electric AND water, plus neighbors at arm’s length. Such luxury does bring out the sloth in us both.20180111_144759.jpgWe did get a good start though with a hike through SARA’s Crack,  (also called Crack in the Mountain). We were anxious to complete this hike through a slot canyon, after being thwarted on an attempt two or three years ago, when we were here the first time. At that time, we had Jezzy with us, and some of the elevation changes and narrow spaces were just too much for her to navigate, and we were forced to abort. Jezzy stayed home this time, and we negotiated the modest slot canyon easily.20180108_121226.jpg20180108_120755.jpgAlthough most of the hike consisted of walking down a pretty boring wash at the bottom of the canyon, it was fun to clamber through the slot. The best part, though, was the turnaround spot at the end, where we ran into Lake Havasu. Can you imagine a more perfect picnic spot?20180108_115250.jpg 20180108_115506.jpgThis site is maintained by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) for boaters, who may want to camp overnight. Plenty of room to pitch a tent, plus a pit toilet, and trash baskets.  Worth any amount of effort to get there. We took the long way back, so we could pass the Lizard Geoglyph, a fun (but hardly historical) hiker-made rock formation. It’s difficult to see, but use your imagination to see the giant lizard.20180108_140837.jpgCycling around Lake Havasu is easy – it’s mostly flat, the Lake is pretty, and there are a number of historic lighthouse replicas nearby to keep things interesting. We visited most of these before, but they are always fun to see and photograph.20180109_120856.jpg20180110_164747.jpgPlus, Lake Havasu is the home of the historic London Bridge, which was dismantled and reassembled here. Its serene presence rules the the area. 20180110_114105.jpgWhile we were at Lake Havasu, we made an unexpected, but most fun connection with someone whose blog I have read and admired for a long time. Ingrid and Al are full-timer RVers. In addition, Ingrid is an incredible photographer – the link above is to some of her Texas posts, which are probably my favorites. After seeing my last post about heading to Havasu, she sent me a note stating that they were also in Havasu, and how about Happy Hour? So happy that she took the chance in contacting me – we four had fun swapping favorite camping sites and discussing future plans. P1020088.jpgIf you enjoy beautiful photography, check out her blog.

We had one more blast from the past today while visiting Buses by the Bridge, and annual VW Camper Fest (hippie blast). If you have ever lusted about hitting the road in a WV bus, this is the group for you. Part flea market, part hippie, part wannabe, and mostly pure fun. Buses, some perfectly restored, and others held together with spit and baling wire, have traveled for miles to get here “14 hours from Albuquerque at 35mph”. We watched one guy get towed in on a flatbed AAA wrecker, and jump out of the cab like he had won the Indy 500. Lotsa love here. Creativity abounds. I’ll close with photos. These folks are here for the weekend, and it’s gonna be a party!20180111_144410.jpg 20180111_144114.jpg20180111_123447.jpg20180111_121949.jpg20180111_115940.jpg20180111_121549.jpg20180111_144856.jpgPeace and love. We are off into the wilderness again tomorrow.

History Lesson and a Bicycling Lesson

Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce, TN is the perfect jumping off spot for exploration of Shiloh National Battlefield, site of one of the early big, strategic battles of the Civil War.   Pickwick is an older State Park, with odd campsites – most are not remotely level.20140424_070727 All have electric and water, but the water is all on the wrong side for an RV or trailer. Bathroom facilities are clean, but old.  The humidity level in the bathroom is killer!  Eh, so what?

We decide to spend our first whole day in the area at Shiloh.  John maps out a bike route for the 18 mile ride to the Battlefield.  Part of the road will be on a busy State Highway, filled with logging trucks (cyclist’s worst enemy) delivering huge loads of pine to the PCA plant along the way.  But, we thought we would only be on this stretch of road for a mile or so.  HA!  The road he had mapped out didn’t exist.  We were trapped on the Logging Expressway for about 6 miles.  What a horror.  The biggest laugh is that there is a big sign (familiar to all of you) along the roadside proclaiming Bicycle Route.  That sign should have said Cyclist/Organ Donor Route.  The road itself was the minimum width for a State Highway, with about a one foot, crumbling shoulder.  Most of the pavement along the shoulder was non-existent.  The lumber trucks roar past, not giving an inch of pavement, with bark, dust, and whatnot flying off the back. It was a nightmare. There are NO good roads in this area for cyclists. Not an extra inch of pavement exists for safety.

Shiloh was somber and informative, as well as very beautiful.  20140424_13530320140424_13240520140424_132242The Union Army originally hoped for a quick victory in April 1862, paving the way for a collapse of the Confederate Army.  But, an unexpected attack by General Johnston (killed at Shiloh – to date, still the highest ranking US Military Officer killed in battle) drove the Union troops back on Day 1. The tables were turned on Day 2, pushing back the Southerners, who retreated on Day 3, setting the stage for three more years of battle.  The film at the Visitor Center was amazing – personal stories of soldiers on each side, and graphic depictions of the strategy/tactics made the Battlefield site much easier to understand.  With our maps in hand, we cycled along the route, stopping at each of the points, set in chronological order. 20140424_134609 John’s great-great-great-grandfather fought at Shiloh as part of the 15th Michigan Infantry, and we saw many markers of their participation in this great battle.

The cemeteries always hold great interest for me.20140424_12531220140424_125337 This was no exception.  Sobering in the size – so many markers with numbers, yet no names.  The hardships of the Civil War are so difficult to comprehend.20140424_125759 The logistics of thousands of dead soldiers, and many, many more thousands wounded are staggering to comprehend. 20140424_130137 Memorials on the Battlefield site are abundant – many are elaborate. 20140424_141809 One of the memorials that I found particularly moving was the one dedicated to the Confederate Army. 20140424_13415120140424_134303 One side (the right) shows heads in profile held high – signifying the high spirits and hopes of the soldiers entering into the battle.  The left side has the same profiled heads bowed in defeat.  My photos don’t do justice to this memorial – it’s quite striking.

We arrived back at camp exhausted from cycling 50 miles in (mostly) awful road conditions.  Had enough time to cook a quick dinner, and bundle Jezzy into her Thundershirt before the storms rattled with windows most of the night.  When they stopped, the coyotes began.  There must be a dozen of them, and it’s amazing to hear the range of calls and sounds they make.

Thursday was camp day.  We’ve been living the high life, and not working too hard to keep our gear looking sharp.  So, we spent the day washing the truck, and meticulously scrubbing bugs from 10 states off the grille, and doing the same for the Fireball.  We’ve washed both along the way, but this was the first time we actually detailed all the tiny parts.  Windows are shined, floor mats cleaned, and all the mystery wings and legs are cleaned off the headlights.  Not a fun day, but we’re very happy to have spent the time doing it.  The inside of the Fireball got tended to as well, and it’s now ready for the BRR!

Spent the rest of the day exploring the park on foot with Jezzy, then cycling to the dam/locks to check things out. 20140425_162415We did find the dock to nowhere.20140425_152801 No big discoveries, except for the gigantic wisteria growing near the entrance.20140425_165747 It’s wrapped around a tree, and has flowers extending 30 feet into the air.  Never have I seen one so big.  20140425_165801

Saturday morning, we head off to Cloudland Canyon SP in Georgia.  Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?




Diamond John Strikes Out

Byebye, Airstream dream.  See ya, Easy Living.  Diamond mining was a bust.  Zero.  Zilch.  After falling for the dream of diamonds for the picking, we spent about two hours trying to mine, sift, dig, or shuffle up a diamond.  Any size, any color.  Our conclusion?  Diamond mining is hard!  We were hot, unfocused, and kind of sniping at each other for our crappy technique.  As miners, we suck!

So, here’s the deal at Crater of Diamonds SP in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.  You pay $8/person to get into the 40 acre diamond area.  Whatever you find, you keep.  Need tools?  Rent ’em!20140421_120514  There are live demos on how to find diamonds, and an on-demand video to watch.  After watching the demo, we decided that we would go for the double-screen water dip method.  We brought with us a small bucket and a garden scoop (you don’t want to know why we had this with us in the Fireball), and also rented a miner’s shovel.

Here’s how it goes….

1.  Our two screens fit on top of each other.  The top one has a larger mesh, so the finer grit, stones (diamonds) fall into the bottom box.  Of course, you have to carefully examine the top box to make sure you’re not discarding The Big One (providing you didn’t just stumble across it while walking to your chosen dig site).  Swish the boxes around in the sluice tank (or the waist-high troughs in the other areas) until you have only rocks in the top box. 20140421_11490020140421_114911Examine them for the obvious enormous diamond.  Discard.20140421_115609

2.   Using a Rock/Bounce/Turn technique, wash the lower screen of gravel in the sluice tank to wash away the excess clay, grit, dirt.20140421_11493420140421_114956 This technique (supposedly) also sends the heavier diamonds and minerals to the bottom of the screen, so when you flip it over to empty the screen, the good stuff is on top for you to simply scoop up.20140421_115158

3.  We never got any good stuff.  Just gravel. Scraping the gravel into the screens or buckets was difficult with the tools we had.  The ground was packed hard.  The folly of the undertaking quickly became apparent, although the guy who found a 6 carat diamond just laying on the ground two weeks ago was working nearby.  Here, in John’s distinctive left hand is a visualization of what we hoped to find.20140422_113913  We opted for shade, diet Cokes, and wandering about to see how others were approaching the task.

Liked this guy’s technique a lot.20140421_122237People employed various techniques to sift thru the gravely stuff for diamonds.20140421_12395620140421_124135

Perhaps this little girl had the best idea of all.20140421_130058

John’s best find was in the Visitor’s Center store (each to his own).20140422_113743Oh well.  It was fun, but I have to say that we really just flaked out on the deal.  As we rode our bikes home to the campground 20140420_163409(what a terrific place to camp!), we could hear distant thunder, and we caught a few raindrops.  Got Jezzy bundled into her Thundershirt, grabbed quick showers, and sat out the next six hours of pretty intense storms.

Tuesday, we cycled into Murfreesboro (pop 1764), and wandered around. 20140422_13372320140422_13011120140422_12394820140422_123602 It’s pretty s-l-o-w here.  There are a few ‘antique’ stores, a cemetery, hardware store, and Barry’s Hawg Town Cafe (unremarkable food by any standard, except for the interesting sticker vending machine)20140422_133408

We loved having a chance to slow down a bit and enjoy the perfect spring camping weather. After drying out in the Southwest for three months, the warm humid day and 80 degree temps were welcome.  The crazy green colors of spring are everywhere here, a real feast for the eye.  Two (of three) nights were perfectly still, so we enjoyed campfires until we were in danger of nodding off and falling into them.

Score?  Diamond mining – 0.  Camping – 10.  Life in general – 8 (at least).



Big Winds in Dead Horse

“Be careful,” said the Ranger as we checked into Dead Horse Point State Park, near Moab. “There’s a high wind alert for tonight. 50mph gusts. Also, there are no toilets in the campground, due to construction. But, there are two portajohns.”

“Water?” we asked.

“Not for your trailer, but there is a sink outside the (non-functioning) bathroom you can get drinking water from. Or, you can get water here at the Visitor Center, or use the flush toilets here.” (The VC is about 1/2 mile from the campground).

Perhaps, this was not the best start.

We were lucky to get setup before the wind started to knock us around. It was only 4pm or so – way too early to pack it in and hunker down for the evening. So, John decided to hike back to the Visitor Center to check out the exhibits and the movie (nearly all Visitor Centers have movies of their park, which we love). My job was to take Jezzy for her pre-dinner poop stroll. Heading out to Dead Horse Point seemed like a good choice, since it was only 1.5 miles each way.20140330_162434

Jezzy doesn’t like wind. When it’s windy, she thinks it may lead to thunder, and she HATES thunder (see posts on Thundershirt). But, she needs to learn that she doesn’t get to make ALL the decisions in our household. So, off we go on a trail, which heads out on the east rim of the Canyon, about 2000 feet above the Colorado River.

Every now and then we get pelted by a blast of rain. Dark clouds are rolling in, and the wind is definitely picking up. Jezzy’s not happy. I’m less than joyous myself, but we’re on a mission. 20140330_160629After a mile or so, we are headed to a narrow point on the Canyon rim, where we’re about to head out onto a thin strip of land known as Dead Horse Point. Legend has it that cowboys would round up wild mustangs and corral them at this point, about 30 yards wide. Fencing off the open side with scrub and brush, they would choose the horses they wanted to keep, and leave the unwanted horses on the point, and they would die of thirst.

Below, the Colorado River makes a 180 degree swing. It’s a spectacular viewpoint.
However, as we neared the neck of the point, the wind gusts nearly knocked me off my feet!  Jezzy was wild and frantic, trying to dodge behind me so that I could protect her. Me? I wanted to hide behind her! So, we retreated, without getting to see the famous bend.

Safely home, we battened down and got biffed around by gusts of 55mph. It was wild.20140330_160623 At one point, we headed out into the howling win to help out our tenting neighbor.  His tent had become unmoored from three of its four stakes, and was flailing around wildly – we feared it would become totally unhitched, and fling itself over the canyon wall.  He got it under control, but I’ll bet he’ll be sleeping with red dust in his sleeping bag for years.  Finally, around 2am, things settled down. Quiet prevails again.

In the calm of morning, we look with dismay at the interior of the Fireball.  Every surface is covered with a fine red grit.  Our soft slippers make scratchy noises on the floor, and our coffee cups sound like sandpaper on the tabletop.  We got just enough rain to set the dust into a red cement on the windows.  It’s awful enough that we just had to escape.

We headed out on the Trail again, and this time got to see the famous Dead Horse Point. 20140331_094852It was worth the wait.  We’ll get around to cleaning up some time later today.

Jezzy and the Thundershirt – II

The reviews are in:  Two paws up for the Thundershirt!!.

Jezzy’s been sporting her new Thundershirt for at least part of each day for the last couple of weeks.  Between several popup thunderstorms, and the incessant neighborhood fireworks, she’s really given it a trial by fire.  I’m not saying that she was hanging out, making cheerful conversation with us last night during the fireworks, but she was NOT under the bed, quivering and quaking.

Jezzy finds a safe spot behind the lamp and end table.

Jezzy finds a safe spot behind the lamp and end table.

We found that she still wants to be under something – but the frantic running from spot to spot was absent, and the pathetic shivering never materialized.

Maybe not the world's happiest pup, but tolerating the commotion.

Maybe not the world’s happiest pup, but tolerating the commotion.

Relief.  Success.