with Norm and Linda
(Winter in the Sonoran Desert)
(January 4, 2006 to March 1, 2006)
You can click on "photos"
directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second
page (if there is one).
If you have followed our travels you know that we
had a truly marvelous summer in 2003 as we traveled with Norm and Linda
Payne for ten weeks as we toured the Canadian Atlantic Provinces and
some of northern Maine. It has been almost two and a half years since
that time and we once again traveled with Norm and Linda,
this time for about nine weeks as we headed west to attend a couple of
Newmar RV rallies and roam around southern California. This travelog
picks us up after having spent the New Year's weekend at Rainbow's End
in Livingston, Texas.
We left Rainbow's End on January 5th after
celebrating the new year and watching the last couple of football bowl
games. Our destination was Austin to visit John and Libby Veach. John
had been working for FEMA for several months and was stationed in
Austin to help handle housing situations for hurricane victims.
Although he said he had been working very long hours and six days a
week he said he loved the work and felt good about helping people. We
were able to book into the same RV park the Veaches were staying in,
Oak Forest. It was a nice park with friendly people in the
office. The site we had was a 50-amp, full hookup, pull-thru. The free
WiFi was an added benefit.
Our next stop was the San Antonio area to visit a
few RV friends. We stopped at the Camping World to see if we could
boondock there for a couple of nights, which worked out fine. The last
time we saw Gene and Ann Dwiggins was in 2001 as we made our way
west. They drove up to the Camping World and led us to a great
seafood restaurant where we enjoyed a great meal and camaraderie.
It was also in 2001 that we last saw Willie Nunez
and Betty Sue Basham at the last RVAmerica Y2K Party in Gold Canyon.
They had since traded their Winnebago Vectra for a Dutch Star, but were
now in the process of building a house in San Antonio. We met them at
the construction site for a tour of the house. They are doing a lot of
the work themselves and it is coming along nicely. It will be beautiful
when it is finished and furnished. They led us to a fantastic Chinese
buffet restaurant. It was one of the biggest and best we had ever been
Our travels took us into the Sonoran Desert where
we would spend the rest of the winter and early spring. The desert
covers 120,000 square miles in southeastern California (Palm Springs),
southwestern Arizona (Tucson, Phoenix, Quartzsite), and most of Baja
California and the state of Sonora, Mexico (Puerto Penasco). To give
you an idea of how big the Sonoran is, it is bordered in the north by
I-40 in Arizona and I-10 in California, on the east by US 191 in
Arizona, in the south to the tip of Baja California, Mexico, and on the
west by Borrego Springs and San Gorgonio Pass in southern California.
We weren't following any particular schedule other
than we knew we had to be in Quarzsite, Arizona to attend the Newmar
rally starting January 18. There was enough time to spend a few days in
Gold Canyon to allow us to do the necessary shopping and other
preparations for spending seven nights boondocking in the desert. We
also wanted to visit with Ron and Barb Hofmeister who live not far from
the Canyon Vistas RV Resort in Gold Canyon. It was a two day trip from
San Antonio with overnight stops at the Wal-Mart in Fort Stockton and a
rest area in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Rather than take the interstates,
we headed up US 70 to Globe where we picked up US 60 west over the
mountain. The views were fantastic as we climbed and then descended
into the valley where the temperatures were much warmer. We pulled into
Canyon Vistas, one of the many large RV parks in the Phoenix area
mostly populated by snowbirds from the northern states.
Ron and Barb were some of the first folks we met
as we were getting ready to join the ranks of fulltime RVers. We read
both of the books they wrote about RVing and attended several of their
seminars. They spent 14 years on the road before deciding to buy a
house in Gold Canyon. Diane and I visited with them when we flew out to
Phoenix in February 2005 and we always enjoy visiting with them. Barb
was involved with the local theater in their community and was the
director of this year's play. She invited Diane and Linda to watch a
rehearsal session, which they did the morning after we arrived. Later
in the day we all went to their house for a meal and fellowship.
While in the area we got our shopping done and
Diane and I went to see a couple of movies (Glory Road; Tristan and
Isolde). It would be several weeks before we would see another movie
theater, which probably would mean that we would start to suffer from
withdrawal symptoms from not seeing movies. :-)
Norm and Linda did the Quartzsite/Puerto Penasco
rallies in 2004 and raved about them, especially Puerto Penasco with
it's great happy hours on the verandah and HUGE shrimp that go from
the boat to the vendor to the dinner plate on the same day. They had
asked us to make that trip with them back in 2004, but we had planned
to stay east for that winter and only go as far west as the Dakotas in
summer of 2004. I'm not a big fan of making long round trips as we
typically point the nose of the Dutch Star in a direction and then
follow it for months. The only round trip we make is to go from Florida
to Georgia for Christmas. It was just too far to go all the way to
Quartzsite and Puerto Penasco and then back to the east coast. When we
planned to do Quarzsite and Puerto Penasco this year we were very happy
that Norm and Linda said it was in their plans as well. And that's kind
of why I decided to call this travelog "Travels With Norm and Linda".
Diane and I enjoy traveling with them. It's especially great for Linda
and Diane because they spend much more time together thanks to their
common interests in playing "Boggle" and beading.
Quartzsite is a town in Arizona along I-10 about
20 miles east of the California border. We had heard about it from
several folks who had been there, as well as read travelogs written by
folks who spent time in the desert. The stories ranged from "never
again" to "the greatest place to stay in the winter months". We were
told that we had to experience Quartzsite at least once, so we decided
this was the time to do that. Newmar holds an annual rally in Quarzsite
every January, so we signed up to attend the rally along with Norm and
Linda. It's not uncommon for Newmar folks who do the Quartzsite rally
to also sign up for the
Puerto Penasco caravan that starts the day after the Quartzsite rally
ends. That's what we did.
Quartzsite is in the Sonoran Desert and started
out in 1856 as a fort owned by Charles Tyson that he built to protect
his family against the Indians. There was water in the area and it was
known as Tyson Wells. Thanks to the water it became a stagecoach
station on the road from Ehrenburg to Prescott. During World War II,
General Patton used the area as a training area for troops about to be
shipped to fight in the desert of North Africa.
Sometime in the mid 1980s folks interested in
rocks and gems started have rallies in the area. Over time, it grew to
include a large RV show along with lots of vendors. We had heard there
could be up to 150,000 to 200,000 RVs in the area with up to a million
people. However, these million people are most likely not all there at
the same time, but rather spread out over the winter months. In any
case, there were thousands of RVs parked in the desert over many miles
in each direction of the center of town. Heading west on I-10 there is
a mile marker indicating seven miles to Quartzsite. At that point, you
can see thousands and thousands of white specks off in the distance.
They are the roof tops of RVs scattered in the desert. The busiest time
is from about mid January to mid February. People park their rigs just
about anywhere there is an open space. Most of the land in the area is
owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Some of it is free
parking and some of it is fee. The fee areas are known as Long Term
Visitor Areas (LTVAs) and are closer to town and all of the activities.
The permit to park in these areas range from $20 for a week or $100 for
an entire season. It's not unusual for RVers to spend the entire winter
in the desert around Quarzsite. There are places where folks can fill
up their water tanks and dump their holding tanks.
The Newmar rally has always been held at a
location just off US 95 about six miles south of I-10. We signed up to
arrive two days early which would give us a week boondocking in the
desert. Norm frequents the Newmar Owners Group on Yahoo and wanted to
park with some of the folks from that group who would be at the rally.
It's a good way to put a face with a name. There were about 24 rigs
parked with the Yahoo group. We and the Paynes arrived together and we
were parked in an area not far from where the "town square" was set up,
which was where we had all our meals and entertainment. The rally
officially started on Wednesday, January 18, and we started it off the
prior evening with a pot luck dinner with the other Yahoo folks.
One never knows what the weather would be like in the desert in
January. Norm and Linda were in Quarzsite in January 2004 and said it
was shorts and T-shirts every day with beautiful weather. Well, not
time. The evenings were down in the 30s and the daytime temperature
didn't get much above 55 most days. And it was windy, although
most days were not brutal winds blowing up the sand. If we were just
boondocking and not attending a rally we might have a different
opinion. Here's why. All of our meals were catered and eaten outside
between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. which meant it was cool. Sometimes it
was downright cold. A prime rib dinner isn't very enjoyable when eating
it in 50 degree weather. If we were just there boondocking we would
been eating in the motorhome or out in a restaurant and not eating
outside. So would we do it again? Yeah, probably, but not for a few
years. Barring the cold, it's hard to beat being at a Newmar rally with
old friends and enjoying the camaraderie.
We did drive into town a few times and walked
through the vendor tent to see if there was anything of interest. There
wasn't so we didn't buy anything. We find that having been on the
road for almost six years that there isn't much we need anymore.
Parked in one of the BLM LTVAs were a few folks
from the RVAMERICA bulletin board. We got to visit with Mike Desch and
Linda Oddo and had a meal together at a local restaurant. We hadn't
seen them since the Life on Wheels Conference in Moscow, Idaho in July
2001. A few days later, Diane and I stopped by to see if Mike and Linda
were there and if anyone else had arrived. Richard and Patsy King were
there and we hadn't seen them for several years. We all sat and chatted
a while and had a great visit.
I would like to mention that the Newmar
Quarzsite rally was coordinated for years by the Region 1 Directors,
Jim and Pat Lambertus. They decided it was time for someone else to
step up and coordinate the rally. Last summer at the Newmar
International Rally in Salem, Oregon, this topic was discussed and it
was decided that the Quartzsite Rally would become a Newmar Special
Event. Stepping up to host the rally were George and Barbara Carlson
(President of the Newmar Fulltimers Chapter). Volunteering to co-host
the rally were Barry and Terry Klein. Naturally, they had no control
over the weather, but they did a great job putting on the rally. The
food was great, as was the final evening's entertainment, Keith
Longbotham, who we had seen before. He and his buddies were very funny
and entertaining as they told jokes and played great music that helped
us get our minds off the fact that it was pretty cold that evening.
It seems like there are probably three categories
which Quarzsite visitors fall. The first are the folks who absolutely
love boondocking in the desert and love Quarzsite. The second are the
folks who have been there, hated it, and swore never to return. The
third are the folks who have been there, think it's "okay" and MAY
decide to return sometime. Diane and I fall into the third category.
Other than the cold temperatures, we enjoyed our stay in Quarzsite. You
get to see some interesting sites in the desert, from strange RVs to
The next phase of our journey was to hook up with
the other Newmar
folks who were signed up to caravan to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point),
Mexico. The meeting place was the Elks Lodge parking lot in Gila Bend,
which is about 80 miles north of the Mexican border. The
was much warmer in Gila Bend than it was in Quarzsite and we were happy
about that for sure. Although it was called a caravan,
it was actually a rally without the seminars. Some of the Newmar rigs
had already arrived by the time we and the Paynes arrived. We were
lined up in rows of eight to nine rigs. Since Norm had already made the
trip to Puerto Penasco, he was asked to lead one of the groups.
Our motorhome insurance extends our coverage into
Mexico as infrequent travelers in that country, but it does not include
liability. It is a law in Mexico that one must have liability coverage.
If one were to have an accident in Mexico without such coverage, it
could mean ending up in a Mexican jail. Norm had told me that there
would be people in Gila Bend selling liability insurance and they were
already there writing policies. It is not necessary to purchase
liability coverage for the times when the vehicles are not on the
road, so we bought a policy to cover us on the day we drove in and the
day we drove out. Norm and I decided to split the coverage for the
cars. He covered his car for the first week and I covered my car for
the second week. The cost for that coverage was $95. Some folks did not
have a rider on their US RV coverage to include Mexico, so they had
to purchase additional coverage for their vehicles as well as
liability. We learned that some folks paid as much as $500 for that
coverage for one week.
By the time we got through the line to purchase
Mexican liability insurance it was time for dinner. The meal was a
catered barbecue that was delicious. Thank goodness the weather was
pleasant as everyone set up chairs and tables near the buffet table. It
sure beat eating meals in 50 degree weather as we did almost every
evening in Quarzsite.
We meet many people who say they would never take
their RV into Mexico under any circumstances due to the rampant stories
about bandidos and bad roads and whatever. Diane and I have never held
such an extreme position, but we have said we would not go into Mexico
by ourselves nor do we have any desire to go deep into Mexico or drive
in the Baja. Some folks who have driven the Baja said it was a 2000
mile white knuckle round trip with nothing between the road and a
steep drop-off. That wouldn't be much fun for me as the driver or Diane
as the passenger. Others have made the drive and said it wasn't so bad.
I guess we all have different levels of tolerance
for such adventures. We have some friends who are soon to be fulltimers
who are very
anxious to drive deep into Mexico for the winter months. We don't share
that desire and I'm sure they doesn't understand our concerns in the
way we don't understand the concerns of folks who wouldn't drive at
least to Puerto Penasco with a group. At least Puerto Penasco is in the
"free" zone and the road down is like a good US highway. Plus there is
safety in numbers. The water was safe to drink at the campground and
the major local restaurants. We didn't hear of even one person from our
rally who got sick with the famed Montazuma's Revenge.
Puerto Penasco became a tourist destination thanks
to the vision of Johnny Stone, a US businessman. He visited the small
fishing village during the days of prohibition in the United States and
saw the potential for tourism given that it was outside the prohibition
laws in the US. He bought some property, drilled a well, and built a
hotel. The rest, as they say, is history. People go there today to
enjoy the mild winters or to escape the desert heat during the summer
months. We learned that it is much more crowded during summer than it
was when we were there in winter. We pretty much had the beach to
ourselves when we went out for a walk. Today Puerto Penasco is a very
successful resort town.
Diane and I were more excited about the trip to
Puerto Penasco than we were for Quarzsite and the time had finally
arrived for the drive into Mexico. We crossed the border at
Lukeville, Arizona. The Mexican border guard stopped Norm's rig and
some questions, looked around inside the rig a few seconds, and then
waved everyone through. The drive was uneventful as Norm did a good job
of making sure everyone in our group stayed together. Puerto Penasco is
about 65 miles from the border and the drive took us around one and a
half hours. The final few blocks to the campground were on sandy roads,
but not bad. We stayed at the Playa Bonita RV Park
right along the
beach. There was also a hotel attached to the restaurant and
campground. The parking crew was already there and did a fantastic job
of parking all the rigs, especially given that the campground sites
were a bit tight.
After getting set up we walked to the office to
sign up to have our motorhomes washed and waxed. We were told it was $1
a foot, but the price had gone up to $1.50 a foot for wash AND wax.
Since we have a fiberglass roof, it was another $15 to do the roof. I
was quite happy to pay someone $72 to wash and wax the motorhome. I try
to do that twice a year in spring and fall. The washing is never a
problem, but I have to admit that it does get tougher every time I wax
the beast even though I wax it over about a week. It's just too big to
wax in one day. And it doesn't get any easier the older I get.
At 4 p.m. we walked up for our
first look at happy hour on the verandah. We ordered two pitchers of
margaritas that were some of the best margaritas I've ever tasted.
Diane doesn't drink, but had a couple of virgin margaritas and agreed
that the mix was delicious. A never ending supply of chips and salsa
was available. We were hooked. Happy Hour became an event before every
meal at the rally and about every other day during the extra week we
spent at Playa Bonita. There were four couples who hung out together
during the week: us; Norm and Linda; Tom and Mary Williams; and Mary
and Jim Harpold. We were a perfect mix.
Our hosts for the Puerto Penasco caravan were Jay and Donna Weewie
who have hosted this event for several years. They have it down to a
science and did a marvelous job. We learned that the rally is capped at
85 rigs because the restaurant comfortably holds 170 people. Everything
was perfect. The meals were all delicious and the waiter for our table,
Carlos, was a real character. We made sure to get the same table for
each meal so that we would have Carlos wait on us. He helped make each
meal extremely enjoyable. The entertainment was fun. And the weather
was fantastic. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect week.
We were so busy during the rally week that we didn't walk along the
beach or make too many trips into town except for one evening when the
four couples went up on the hill overlooking the Old Port to eat
dinner at the Lighthouse Restaurant. The food was good and the views
were great. On days when there was no rally meal planned, the four
couples got together and we cooked out. It had been a long time since
we took out our raclette grill. Norm and Linda knew what it was, so I
explained it to the Harpolds and Williams. We had some raclette cheese
so we got that out and did the raclette and stone top
cooking. It just doesn't get any better than getting a few folks
together along with good food and wine and views of the water and beach
and great weather. The photos tell the story.
The rally ended on Sunday and pretty much everyone left on Monday.
There were a few who stayed longer. We weren't able to keep the two
sites that we were in during the rally because two other rallies were
arriving. However, we were able to get two sites together and move a
bit closer to the clubhouse, which was good because it provided a
better WiFi signal. It was during this week that we ate lots of shrimp.
We drove into the Old Port to shop and to pick up some shrimp. There
were lots of open store fronts in which people were selling seafood. We
chose to buy ours from The Cowboy. The prices were all the same, but he
was willing to clean the shrimp for us. So we went back to him each
time we wanted fresh shrimp, which was almost every day. When Norm and
Linda told us about the huge shrimp, they weren't kidding. Some of the
shrimp were HUGE. To give you an idea I'll tell you that there were
only nine or ten shrimp in a pound for the biggest ones. There were
three sizes of shrimp and the prices were $6, $8, $9 a pound. When we
left Puerto Penasco we had about 10 pounds of shrimp, scallops, and
fish in our freezer. The Paynes left with about 14 pounds.
During our second week we did take a few walks along the beach. There
were condos down from the RV park and new ones under construction. It
was kind of sad to see the condos encroaching towards Playa Bonita. We
heard that eventually, maybe within two years, the Playa Bonita RV park
land will be sold so more condos can be constructed. The park would
be moved to an area off the beach. It will still be a nice place to go,
but it won't be the same as being parked along the beach. It's always
about the money. The land is too valuable to have RVs parked on it. That
was evident by the large number of condos along the beach with many
more under construction. We saw signs for condos priced from around
$400,000 to $1.4 million.
We saw some fantastic sunsets while we were in Mexico. I put four
photos of Puerto Penasco sunsets on the first photo page. The photos
have not been touched or altered in any way. The sunsets were awesome
and, as they say, the photos don't do them justice.
I received a note from George Carlson telling me that they would be
down in Puerto Penasco the second week. The Carlsons,
Paynes and Diane and I went to happy hour and a final meal on our last
evening on the verandah. Diane and I chose a shrimp meal,
Shrimp Tequila, that was cooked at our table by Ernesto who was one of
our waiters during the rally. The beach and water and Puerto Penasco
were always within site as we sat on the verandah most evenings. This
was definitely one of the best two week periods of time we have had
since we hit the road in 2000. We will definitely go back to Puerto
Penasco again and maybe stay even longer than two weeks.
The drive out of Mexico was uneventful and we passed through the border
into the USA without anything but a few questions from the border
agents. We decided to have our mail forwarded to the post office in
Gila Bend and spend a night at the Elks Lodge. Organ Pipe National
Monument was on the way so we stopped there for a few hours to tour the
area and view the various cacti. We went into the visitor center to get
some information about driving through the monument. I guess I am now a
full fledged senior citizen because I was able to purchase my Golden
Age Pass from the National Park Service. For $10 I have a lifetime pass
to the National Parks and 50% off fee services. I figure there are
probably three or four milestone ages in one's life. First, there was
16 when I could get a license. The second was 18 (now 21) when I could
legally get a drink in a bar and go clubbing. Third was reaching 21
which I guess meant I was an adult. Then there was this big gap until
reaching 62 when I was able to get those Social Security checks and my
Golden Age Pass. Now if I could only find a way to stop aging at
We unhooked Norm's car and drove on the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Drive that
wound its way around the Diablo Mountains. Due to its low latitude and
altitude, the Sonoran Desert tends to be warmer than the other three
deserts in the southwest, the Chihuahuan, the Great Basin, and the
Mojave. It doesn't freeze often and has a rainy season, both of
which lend to a greater diversity of plants and animals. As we drove
through the area we saw many wonderfully shaped cacti. The organ pipe
cactus grows mainly within the Organ Pipe National Monument, but is
also found in Sonora, Mexico. It's called organ pipe because the
branches all rise from the ground and form what appears to be the pipes
of an organ. The saguaro cactus is one of my favorites because of the
many shapes it can take. It can grow as high as 50 feet. Other
interesting cacti we saw included the chain-fruit cholla, prickly pear,
ocotillo, and teddybear cholla. All were interesting and I have
included photos of some of them on the photo pages.
After spending the night in Gila Bend and picking up our mail on the
way out the next morning, we drove to Yuma for a few days. We had a
coupon to spend three free nights at the Yuma Lakes RV Resort in return
for listening to a 90 minute sales pitch. We listened to the pitch and
didn't buy anything. Norm and Linda followed us into the sales office
and benefited by our going first as the guy knew we were traveling
together. He asked them if they were interested in buying and, when
they said no, he ended the pitch. Yuma Lakes is a nice enough park, but
it's not one we would buy into or frequent. It only provides 30-amp
hookups and they have a rule that prohibits using a washer/dryer in the
RV. They want you to use their laundromat.
We visited with Mike Desch and Linda Oddo in Quarzsite and were able to
also visit with them again as they were in the park.
Norm was in touch with Ray Baker from the RVAMERICA bulletin board and
found out that Ray was in the Yuma area. We were all invited to attend
a New England Maine Boil at the park Ray and his wife, Lora, were
staying at for the winter. There must have been about 30, or more,
people at the cookout. Our hosts were Arnold and Diane Pelletier and we
couldn't thank them enough for having us over and for the wonderful
meal they put out. Not only was there the boil, but there was stuffed
cabbage and other goodies, as well as plenty to drink. We had a
wonderful afternoon and met lots of folks from different parts of the
country and Canada who were wintering in Yuma.
In 2002, we met Robert and Dawn Totten in the Schenectady, New York
area. From just that one meeting we have stayed in touch through the
years via email and occasional phone conversation. They had wintered in
Yuma and decided a few years ago to buy a house and become part time
travelers rather than fulltimers. Robert had planned to spend a day
with us and show us around, including a drive down into Mexico.
However, he had recently broken his leg and was not mobile. So we drove
to their house and had lunch with them and a great visit as we caught
up since we first met almost four years ago. That's one of the great
benefits of this fulltimer lifestyle. You meet lots of folks along the
way and some relationships stick for a lifetime. It was great to see
Robert and Dawn again. We liked what we saw in Yuma so I'm sure our
paths will cross with them again in the future.
Our three nights at Yuma Lakes was coming to an end and they would not
entertain the idea of us paying for a couple of extra nights, so we had
to move on. We wanted to stay in the Yuma area a few more days because
we wanted to go to Algodones, Mexico to shop for meds. We moved over to
the Paradise Casino just over the border in California and boondocked
there through the weekend. Diane and I hadn't been to a movie theater
since we left Gold Canyon four weeks earlier, so we took a day to go
see a couple of movies (The Matador; The Pink Panther). We had heard
about people who go to Mexico to buy their medicines because they are
significantly cheaper than in the US. We drove to Algodones where we
were able to get most of the medicines that Diane takes and saved
somewhere close to $1,000 over what it would cost us in the US.
Algodones is like a one stop shopping town. Not only were there
pharmacies on every street, there were dentist and eye doctors just
about everywhere you looked. Lots of folks go there for dentures and
crowns and eyeglasses and swear by it. We weren't in need of any of
those services, but I guess I'm a bit more skeptical when it comes to
things like that.
I had been to San Diego once back in the early 80s. It was one of those
conferences where you are picked up at the airport, shuttled to the
hotel, attend meetings, shuttle back to the airport and fly out. So I
always wanted to return to spend more time in the city. We got the two
motorhomes ready to roll and drove to San Diego. We chose to stay at
the Mission Bay RV Park at a Passport America rate of $15 per night.
It was a city park right along DeAnza Cove in Mission Bay. We learned
that the park had fallen into serious disrepair and was redone in 2005.
Now it is all asphalt with decent sized sites and 50-amp full hookups.
It was a great price for the area. We were able to extend three extra
days at the Passport America price of $15 per night. Ten days for $150.
Great deal for a popular area such as San Diego. We were surprised to
learn that winter is not their peak season. Summer time is the peak
The first thing we did was go to dinner with a high school buddy that
lives in San Diego. I hadn't seen Rich Gorin since our 40th high school
reunion on Long Island in 2001. He took us to a nice Thai restaurant
where we had a delicious meal. Rich also came over to the park on our
last day in the area to share in a cookout. It was nice to see him
again and we would also cross paths when we got to Mesa, Arizona.
There is a lot to do in San Diego, so much so that we know we would
like to go back there and spend more time, like a month or two, or an
entire winter. One of the top tourist things to do is the San Diego Zoo
and we spent an entire day there. The place is huge. We also drove over
to Coronado to see the Hotel del Coronado where the movie "Some Like It
Hot" with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe was filmed. It's
a beautiful hotel. We walked around the lobby and the shops and out to
the beach behind the hotel. We had asked Rich for some suggestions for
places to eat lunch and he mentioned a few, including JSix in downtown
San Diego. We stopped there for lunch where Diane and I split a
marvelous sandwich. They also put out a basket of delicious breads.
Some friends of ours from Longmont, Colorado, Bill and Sue Brackett,
were spending the winter in a condo along the beach in Carlsbad. We all
took a drive up to visit with them. Bill and I used to work together in
the late 60s and early 70s in New York. We had a nice lunch and visit
and hope to visit again sometime down the road.
Rich told us that the third Tuesday of every month was "free museum
day" which meant no entrance fees to any of the museums in Balboa Park,
and there are several museums in the park. The Museum of Art had a new
exhibit, The Roman Frescoes, so we opted to go see that one. Stabiae
was a small community overlooking the Bay of Naples where the Roman
elite had summer villas. Stabiae, along with Herculaneum and the more
famous Pompeii, was destroyed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in
the year 79. Many artifacts buried under the ashes were
uncovered and were on display, including some beautiful frescoes. There
was no doubt that the Roman elite lived large and luxurious. We
spent several hours looking at the exhibit and then walked through
some of the other exhibits in the museum. The museums were very crowded
as I guess "free Tuesdays" brings out the masses. What a great thing
for the city to do for its people. After touring the museum we wanted
to get a late lunch and decided to go back to JSix where we had another
One day we drove over to Point Loma to get a view of the city from high
on a hill. There was a visitor center that was showing a movie that
introduced us to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set
foot on the west coast of what is now the United States. He set out on
his voyage 50 years after Columbus landed in America. Most of his life
remains a mystery, including where he was born or where he is buried.
However, they do know that he died on January 3, 1543. The view from
Point Loma is across San Diego Bay and the Naval Air Station to the
city. The weather was clear and sunny, albeit a bit cool up there,
which made for great photos.
Norm and I wanted to visit the USS Midway, a well known aircraft
carrier now retired and sitting in San Diego Bay. Diane and Linda were
content with shopping and beading. The Midway is more than three
football fields (1001 feet) in length and displaces more than 70,000
tons. The flight deck is 4.2 acres. There are 18 decks which is the
equivalent of a 20 story building. Fuel economy, if you can call it
economical, is 260 gallons to the mile. It took a crew of 4,300 sailors
to support 200 aviators, including 200 cooks who prepared 13,500 meals
The last stop for us before heading to Mesa for the rest of the winter
was the Palm Springs area. We drove to Indio and checked out the
Fantasy Springs Casino which was listed as having free overnight RV
parking. However, when we got there, we saw signs indicating no
overnight parking. Not very RV friendly. So we went over to the
Spotlight 29 Casino where we saw dozens of RVs. The sign said 24 hour
parking, but we realized that was not being enforced, so we ended up
spending three nights there before moving over to the Catalina Spa
& RV Resort, a Coast to Coast park. It's a nice park depending on
the site you get. Some sites were not very level and we saw several
motorhomes with their wheels off the ground. We were lucky enough to
find two fairly level sites, although my right front wheel was a hair
off the ground. But you can't beat the price of $8 per night.
Diane and I had been to the area many years ago when we used Marriott
points to spend a long weekend at the Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm
Desert. We didn't do much other than I golfed and Diane enjoyed the
spa. So it was like being in the area for the first time. We again took
the opportunity to see a couple of movies (Transamerica; Mrs Henderson
The area is known as the Coachella (pronounced co-a-chella) Valley. The
weather was great and there are lots of things to do in the area. We
took a tour of a windmill farm. We thought it was a bit pricey at $20
per person, but it was informational and the tour guy who drove the van
knew his stuff. One of the biggest tourist things to do is to ride the
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The tram cars are large round units with a
rotating floor that makes two full revolutions on the way up and the
way down. The trip is 10 minutes long as you climb up to the top of Mt.
San Jacinto over two and a half miles of cable. The trip climbs from
2,643 feet at the Valley Station to 8,516 feet at the Mountain Station.
On top is Mt. San Jacinto State Park with 54 miles of hiking trails for
those so inclined. We opted for the ride and dine which was available
after 3 p.m. It offered the round trip ride and a meal at the Top of
the Tram Restaurant, a cafeteria style restaurant. Also in the Mountain
Station was the Elevations Restaurant for those wanting linens and high
I saw an ad in the local paper for the St. George Greek Fest with a
coupon that offered two for one tickets. That sounded like something
interesting to do, so we went there to enjoy some Greek food and music.
We walked around to see what was being sold in the booths, watched two
performances of a Greek dance group from San Diego, and listened to
some great Greek music featuring Levendia, a local Greek Bousouki band.
The bousouki is a favorite interment of mine and I love its sound. We
also had a great Greek lunch. We didn't get to try any ouzo though. We
were sitting at a table with some folks who we were chatting with when
one of them brought over a good looking dessert. She offered a piece to
sample and it was delicious. I asked what it was and learned it was
loukoumathes, so off I went to find the booth where I could buy some.
Loukoumathes are feather light puffs of pastry drenched with honey and
sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts. YUMMY!
A tour of the church was offered at various times, so we all went in to
listen to one of the priests talk about the Greek Orthodox religion and
describe the Greek iconography in the church. The iconography was made
up of Byzantine style Mosaics. We were allowed to take photos and you
can see some of the iconography on the photo pages.
On the way to the Greek festival we stopped at a date farm where we
could sample various types of dates. Some were okay, but neither of us
was very fond of the taste of the dates. We saw signs for "date shakes"
and figured we had to try one, so we shared a date shake. It was okay,
but would not rank up there as a favorite flavored shake.
I had received a note from Ernest Fuller telling me that he had found
our website and followed our travels and were in the Palm Springs area.
He and his wife, Virginia, were staying at a park not far from us, so
we made contact and they came over to visit with us for a short time on
the day we arrived. We got to have a longer visit when we all went out
to dinner to the Capri Italian Restaurant in Desert Hot Springs. I
know I have documented some campground warnings in
travelogs, but never a restaurant warning. However, the following is a
RESTAURANT WARNING: CAPRI ITALIAN RESTAURANT in Desert
Hot Springs. It would take a lot for me to post a restaurant warning as
I'm not all that fussy about food. I find most of it to be good, rarely
bad. This warning has nothing to do with the food at the Capri,
although Diane found her pasta to be on the doughy side. My pasta and
meatballs was good. This warning has to do with a policy the restaurant
has that I find to be objectionable. As we get older, we find that we
need the very large portions served in restaurants, so we often split a
meal. I find it annoying when a restaurant charges patrons who wish to
meal. We do not see this often, but do see it occasionally. A dollar
charge is annoying, two dollars is very annoying. The Capri had it
clearly on their menu that they charge an outrageous $7.50 to split a
meal. I couldn't believe it. I asked our waiter if that really meant
that it if we split an $18 entree that it would actually cost us
He said that was correct. We did not split a large entree, but opted to
get a pasta meal. When one considers that we ate twice at the Elephant
Bar Restaurant and split a meal each time with no extra charge, it
really is outrageous for a restaurant to charge $7.50 to split a meal.
Not only did the Elephant Bar not charge us to split a meal, they
split the meal for
us and brought each of us a plate. Needless to say, we would opt to
never return to the Capri. Norm and
Linda also stated they would not return to that restaurant nor
recommend it to anyone again.
Some Canadian fulltimers came into the RV park a couple of
scheduled to leave and parked across from us. I went over to meet them
and found out they were Coke and Moya Hartwell. I told them we were
going out to eat at the Elephant Bar Restaurant in Palm Desert and
they would like to join us. We had a nice time getting to know each
Where did the time go? We hooked up with Norm and Linda on
in Summerdale, Alabama and spent the next nine weeks traveling
together. Now it was time to part as we were heading to Mesa for a two
month stay and they were going to roam around southern California,
Nevada, and Arizona. We knew we would see them again for a few days in
early April when they returned from a flight out of Phoenix to
Louisville. After that, it would be a long time before our paths would
cross again. Over the nine weeks we were together, we visited with
several old friends,
made new friends, spent a cold week in the desert in Quarzsite, had a
fantastic two weeks in Puerto Penasco, saw some new sites in San Diego
and Palm Springs, and ate some great meals. Diane learned a new hobby
and is now into beading and making some nice jewelry. We were due into
Mesa on March 1, but slipped that a day so Diane and Linda could attend
a jewelry making class offered in the campground. We said our good-byes
and headed off to Mesa where we would sit until May 2 as we planned to
catch up on movies, visit with Diane's sister, Carol, and her family,
and get ready for our journey to Alaska.
Until next time, safe travels.....