Snow Snow Snow Snow
We arrived at The Ranch (a Coast to Coast campground) on Route 60 just east of Vernon, Arizona in the early afternoon. At its 6,500 feet elevation, there was no snow but it was brisk and what a beautiful place it was. We only planned to stay the one night and would have loved to spend weeks. Once a working cattle ranch, it offered many amenities including horseback riding, fishing, hayrides miniature golf, and all the other sports things. It was very big, spacious, new and the club house complete with fireplaces, cozy furniture, kitchen and more overlooked the ranch and the mountains beyond. Some campers were there to take advantage of the good skiing nearby. Snow was predicted that night but I was disappointed when I looked out in the morning. There was no snow. After experiencing Michigan winter, and its dreary days all my life, I find the winters in the west refreshing. The sun shines even on cold snowy days.
Just a few miles from The Ranch was the town of Vernon and as we drove through it, we made another note. The whole area deserves a nice long visit. But I truly fell in love with Show Low -elevation 6,331. Tall green pines, decorate the neat tidy city and there is an abundance of hills and fresh clean air. It was just the right size and being so near to Phoenix (189 miles) made me think that I would like to live there. As Ron was getting gas, a gentleman asked what part of Michigan we were from. He told us that he and his wife retired here from Michigan and he went on to extol the virtues of this extraordinary place. Even without his comments, I was ready to call Show Low home - if and when we decide to settle down that is. Vernon and Show Low are just south of the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest which are also on our list of places we have yet to visit. I noticed that the town of Snowflake was nearby. Sounds inviting! It is also on the list.
At Show Low, we left US 60 which turned south toward Phoenix and continued west on Arizona route 260. We stayed at the 6,000 feet elevation and didn't see much snow but the scenery was still a treat for our eyes. At Payson, we went northwest on state route 87 and even though this was a grey, very curvy line on the map it was easy driving up and over the mountains. After the town of Strawberry, we descended to Camp Verde (elevation 3,000 feet). We were in the desert once again and enjoyed a week of warm (not hot) sunny days and lots of sightseeing. See the story on Arizona's Verde Valley (page five ). From Camp Verde, we drove to the Bullhead City, Arizona/ Laughlin, Nevada area and that is another story (page six).
While in Bullhead City, we got a message on our voice mail service from our friends Barb and Bob Schlosser (we featured them in the Jan-90 issue). They said that they didn't know where we were but thought that since we had to be in Yosemite soon we might be nearby. They were at the CC campground in Corona, California. Since we were losing money where we were, we decided to check out and pop in to surprise them. We had a couple of extra days since we had reservations at a Coast to Coast campground north of LA (Valencia) for March 15-21. When we got to the Glen Ivy Resort in the early afternoon, we asked for a site near the Schlossers and got the one right next to them. It was pouring rain. I was happy because of California's five year drought but there is nothing Ron dislikes more than to have to set up in rain and mud. The Schlossers weren't home so we hurried to get set up. We wanted to see their reaction when they saw us parked right next to them only one day after they left the message. When they returned a little later, it was like a homecoming. After the hugging, we settled down to catch up on all we both had been doing since December. And we played bridge that night. The rain stopped by morning so we drove over the mountain to San Juan Capistrano. The mountains of California are so different than the mountains of Texas, New Mexico and central Arizona. They look like they are draped in different shades of green velvet. The mission was interesting. The swallows had not returned yet but were due any day. (Later we heard on the news that for the first time, the swallows did not return to San Juan - they went somewhere else.) Sadly the next morning we said "good-by" to Bob and Barb again.
We headed northwest on the California freeway system to Valencia to a nice CCC park (and it was easy to find) close to many things but not so close to the craziness of LA. Fiesta Resorts Travel Village was a perfect location for us since Mark and Ana live only 20 minutes south off the same expressway. It was a piece of cake to get to their house and we met them there that evening when they got home from work. The times spent with Mark, Ana, Krystie, Michele and Paul were fun. They shared a lot of delightful eating treats with us. Mark fixed a gourmet dinner one evening, we enjoyed sodas at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy in Pasadena, shopping at Bristol Farms (a gourmet grocery store for the wealthy I think), espresso coffee at one of the many coffee shops, and the very best, most sinful, extraordinary, oatmeal - coconut breakfast rolls at Sweet Sims in Moorpark. They each weighed at least one quarter of a pound. Mark also gave us a real tour over the days which included such things as Hollywood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, the streets in LA where the homeless live (so sad), and a mountain minutes from LA where the snow was deep and many were out playing. When we left the city area to go up the mountain, we were comfortable in shirt sleeves (it was in the mid 60's). We passed people bicycling up the road (oh to be in shape like that) and many cars carried skis, sleds and the like. What a contrast - to be able to have both the nice balmy weather and in a short time be sledding and making snowmen. This is a part of California we had not thought of or experienced before. It rained often during the time we were at Fiesta Resorts* and we soon learned that every time it did, rain meant snow in the higher elevations and that meant road closures. Interstate 5 less than 30 miles north of Valencia reaches a summit ("the grapevine") and two days in a row the traffic was stopped for up to ten hours - all because of the heavy snow. We had only been at Valencia four days when ranger Kevin Mac Millin left a message on our voice box to call him. The roads were blocked into Yosemite because of the snow. He asked us to delay our arrival to the park. They had five feet of snow at the south entrance and more was expected. We began to be serious weather watchers. We had planned to leave on Friday the 21st and go north to another CC campground near Yosemite but there was a big rain storm due Thursday and Friday. Clearing was promised over the weekend so we decided to stay through the weekend giving us more time with Mark and Ana and the rain would be over before we headed north. The weather forecast changed after we made plans to stay. The rain/snow was scheduled to arrive on Sunday evening and Monday morning.
We listened to the rain all Sunday evening and wondered about the grapevine but were pleasantly surprised Monday morning. The road was open and we took off. There was a lot of snow on the mountains at the summit but the road was clear and as soon as we were down the mountain, we were in a huge valley. We left I-5 and headed northwest on state route 99 towards Fresno. Still in the valley, it was smooth sailing until we turned on route 41 and headed straight north.
It was hailing and the roads were a mess. By the time we got to Coarsegold and the Yosemite South Coarsegold Ranch (CC campground) it was just cold and a little rainy. We set up and took off in the car to explore the nearby surroundings. We checked out all that was in the village of Coarsegold (one mile up the road) and decided to check out the next town of Oakhurst seven miles away. It would be our shopping area all the while we would be in Yosemite.
Oakhurst is in a valley and just before we descended into town, we noticed quite a bit of snow on the ground and in town we saw pickup trucks with beds full of snow, but the town was snow free. Curious, we decided we should drive further to Yosemite (only 19 more miles) and see how that drive was. We continued on route 41 up out of town and noticed the sign saying that chains were required from that point on. The road was dry so we went on until four miles later we came to a clearing off to the side of the road where people were putting chains on their tires. Even two big greyhound busses were getting chains put on. We didn't have any. We are from Michigan and know how to drive on the snow - besides the road was dry. Ron talked to a "chain Installer" and found out that up ahead the road was bad and CALTRAN officials give $160.00 tickets to anyone not using chains from that point on. He just happened to have a pair of chains our size that a German couple had just given him - used them once and said he wouldn't need them again. Ron bought them for a mere $20.00 but since it was late in the day, we decided to wait until the next morning to try them out. We went back to Oakhurst, had a pizza and went home. It rained all night just to make matters worse. I couldn't wait to see what kind of snow makes snow chains mandatory.
We didn't get out and really explore any of Yosemite. We will
have months to do that. For now we are just holding our breath -
hoping no new snow falls so we can get into the park. Kevin hopes
that they can get the campground plowed by Monday (the 1st) when we have
to leave Coarsegold. We have chains for the car -not the motorhome
so the roads need to be clear so we can get in and set up housekeeping
there. This month the area around Yosemite received 104 inches of snow.
Most is still on the ground and the forecast is for more rain Sunday.
The drought is no longer severe in California!!
Sincere thanks to all of you for the many cards and letters during our brief setback. Frankly, we were just amazed at the volume of mail. You're the greatest.
Son Karl must have enlarged his sales territory. When he walked into the Las Cruces, New Mexico Medical Center, he said that he "just happened to be in the neighborhood." Sure Karl. We love you for caring.
Somehow I don't feel like I'm in California. Particularly when I'm putting on tire chains.
The blackjack dealers at Laughlin Nevada are much nicer than the ones at Las Vegas. They joke with you and smile when they take your money.
If you do lose all your money at Laughlin -- not to worry. You can park your motorhome overnight free in the huge parking lots and eat well in the casinos for very little. Just keep looking straight ahead as you pass the tables and slots.
Cheapest price for gasoline this month was at Bakersfield California -- 81.9 cents for regular leaded.
After the many nice experiences we have had with the Coast to Coast Campground system, we are happy that we joined. I will give you a one year financial report in September.
Those of you that know the old conservative accountant would never believe that I stood in line an hour and forty-five minutes to ride one the world's scariest roller coasters at Magic Mountain Amusement Park north of Los Angeles. It's better than a stress test.
Any driver who travels the Los Angeles freeways daily, should be automatically qualified to race at the Indianapolis Speedway.
I sure enjoyed seeing the Schlossers again. You know how I like to win at bridge. Just kidding, Bob.
I'm thinking of renting out our services as rainmakers. We sure
took care of the California drought. Come to think of it, the drought
also ended in Texas when we were there.
Imagine gigantic red rocks rising out of the desert. Now picture these rocks which are as big as small mountains taking on the shape of such objects as a coffeepot, chimney, giant's thumb, cathedral, teapot and more. Add to this picture fine shops selling all matters of hand crafted arts, grand
golf courses appearing as a soft green oasis on the harsh red desert, exclusive resorts and just minutes away the mountain streams, tall pines and all the grandeur of the high country. This is Sedona, Arizona perfectly situated just 120 miles north of Phoenix and only 30 minutes south of Flagstaff - gateway to the Grand Canyon.
During the last twenty years, Sedona has been developed as a mecca for wealthy retirees and a first-class resort destination that has earned it the nickname, "The Palm Springs of Arizona". The weather is fine and the shopping great. We spent the best part of two days exploring the area. We browsed shops that were a bit rich for my blood -and what would I do with anything I buy anyway? But it was fun to look. The best part was driving roads that would give us a better view of the majestic red rocks. Our lunch was a picnic by a grove of trees with the red rocks in view.
We were camped just twenty miles away at the Verde River Resort in Camp Verde. This Coast to Coast campground was very nice, but there was so much to see and do in the area that we played the part of tourists and were gone all day - each of the seven days we were there.
Jerome literally clings to the side of Cleopatra Hill on Mingus mountain with a vista of more than 50 miles. It is hard to believe that the town once had a population of 15,000 and was the fourth richest and wildest city in Arizona. After the copper mines closed in 1952 less than 50 residents remained. In the late 60's and early 70's, the town was reclaimed by artists and shopkeepers who wanted to preserve the town. There are still many empty buildings like the large Daisy Hotel which sits way up the mountain and seems to watch over the town. I enjoyed browsing in Jerome much more than in Sedona. The art work was fine and much cheaper.
Our first stop was The Douglas Mansion now an Arizona State Historic Park full of displays and information on the history of the town.
Some of the stores capitalize on the town being a ghost town. For example, the building housing Betty's Ore House and The Miner's Roost Hotel has housed many businesses over the years including an undertaker. The history is given on the menu along with this - " The spirits of the 15,000 miners who lived, loved, worked and died in Jerome live on, and through us...are replenished." Lunch was wonderful but I don't think I'd want to spend a night in the hotel - not with all those ghosts.
Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot
Montezuma Castle is a five-story cliff dwelling of twenty rooms built by the Sinagua farmers in the 12th century. These peaceful village dwellers were fine artisans and enjoyed an abundance of water, fertile soil and game in the area for 400 years.
Tuzigoot is not a cliff dwelling. It was built upon a long ridge 120 feet above the creek. The original pueblo was two stories high in places and had 77 ground-floor rooms.
Montezuma Well nearby is a giant limestone sink formed long ago. The springs produce about one million gallons of water a day. On one side of the wall is another cliff dwelling and nearby are the irrigation ditches that these early Indians dug by hand with crude tools in order to irrigate the nearby fields. The Sinagua seemed to have everything yet it appears they just walked away one day. The mystery remains as to why they left. Since there are no descendants of this tribe we will never know.
When it was time to leave Camp Verde and head west, we studied the map.
We had two choices; 125 miles of back roads or 126 miles of interstate.
We opted for the back roads and headed for Jerome. We thought we would
go past the road that went to Jerome but our back road route took us right
up to Jerome, and further over the mountain - 30 miles of narrow mountain
roads kept us white knuckled. It was scary like a roller coaster but then
I love roller coasters.
Laughlin, Nevada appears as a neon oasis in the desert. Since 1966, Laughlin's casinos have been the catalyst that made Bullhead City grow. Situated at the southern-most tip of Nevada, 286 miles from Phoenix and 90 miles from Las Vegas, it is fast becoming the new gambling resort, especially for those who have became disenchanted with the high prices of Las Vegas.
Until recently visitors to Bullhead City had to drive via the Davis Dam to get to Laughlin or were carried across the river on Casino owned boats 24 hours a day. Now a new bridge makes it a short easy trip with no waiting.
When we arrived at Ridgeview RV Resort (a Coast to Coast park), just a mile from the bridge, we were informed that they wouldn't know if they had a spot for us until six o'clock. We had several hours to kill so we drove our house and all over to Laughlin. It was amazing to see huge parking lots full of all sizes of RVs. We parked ours too and soon noticed that the RVers were camping out and the casinos encourage it. Free camping! We played until a little before six and promptly lost about $30.00 each. That was no fun!!!
Checking into the campground was easy. We had discovered another super CC Campground. After we were set up, we went back across the river and had dinner in one of the restaurants at the Colorado Belle. Wow!!! There was a complete all you could eat salad bar, rolls, coffee and dessert plus the entre which was all you could eat spaghetti or catfish. We were well attended to also - our coffee cups were always full. The price for all of this was only $3.89 each. Now maybe you get the idea why so many like Laughlin compared to Vegas. The prices are unreal.
Although there are only ten casinos, Laughlin has all the glitz of Vegas. It is quite amazing to think that a mere eight years ago, coyotes outnumbered the city's 90 odd residents. In 1983 there were 450 guest resort rooms and now there are 10,000 guest rooms filled to an average 98.5 percent occupancy. That doesn't count all the RV parking spaces. Hotel rooms are as reasonable as the meals and the best part is the employees in the casinos are helpful and friendly. One time when I was playing black jack, the dealer had a low card showing and I had a pair of eights. I decided to split them which I seldom do. The first card turned up was a five but before I could say anything, the dealer gave me back the extra money I bet and put my two eights together with the five and said "There that's better." Two eights and a five make 21 and I won that hand. If you like blackjack, you will enjoy the game in Laughlin because nearly every table plays with a single deck. Not only is it a little easier to keep track of the cards, but they have to stop to shuffle more often and that gives you a breather (and keeps you from losing more money for a minute).
If gambling is not your thing, drive a short ways north of Laughlin to the 67 mile long Lake Mohave, gateway to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The camping facilities, hotels, cabins, and house boats are plentiful. This is a paradise for sailors, fishermen, water-skiers, houseboaters, swimmers, campers, hikers and photographers.
Laughlin is growing too. They have a new golf course which looked lush and difficult, lots of condos, resorts and all. Most of the shopping needs to be done across the river in Bullhead City though. There you will find everything from K Mart, and a mall to small shops.
This 'N That
I have become a horrible ex-smoker. In the casinos of Laughlin, I tried to find non- smoking tables just so I wouldn't have to endure smoke in my face but there were few such places. I would walk around and find a poker machine, black jack table or roulette table with no smokers near by, sit down and start to win (yes) but suddenly some obnoxious smoker would plop down next to me in a recently vacated spot and chain smoke. Even though I was winning, I would leave. Non-smokers are the minority there.
I didn't like the Glen Ivy Resort (CCC) in Corona, California, because of the way they discriminated against non members. Only the home park members could use the card room or the major pool and the hot tub. They had a second pool for "guests." It was too cold to swim anyway.
Just down the road from the campground in Corona was a fantastic market. Lots of fresh produce and fresh (still warm) sourdough bread. Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, bread and strawberries were our main fare the two nights we were there. I would overdose on veggies if I lived in California all the time.
We heard from Robert (my Coast Guard son) and he didn't go to Alaska after all. He had tough duty in the waters off Ecuador, Costa Rica, Puerto Vallarta and Aruba. He described how they swim from the ship by diving off one of the decks which is 30 feet from the water. (No thank you!) All on board sun themselves on the deck of the ship because they hadn't seen land for over a month. When I was at Mark's, Robert called. They were on land finally (Jamaica) after going through the Panama Canal. Poor baby!!!!
We got a post card from Cyndi and George Moe - remember them? We have quoted from their newsletter once or twice. They sold their Eurocoach and bought a North American Van Lines truck and were in school in Indiana. They said they would be on the road in March so anytime you see a North American Van Lines truck - wave. It may be our friends the Ramblin' Moes.
We tried hard to see my Uncle Floyd while in the Los Angeles area. He is a busy guy - always on a movie set. He is an extra in lots of movies. Next time, were are in LA we will try harder.
We enjoyed seeing Mark and Ana's new house which happened to be in the Valencia area but couldn't believe the prices of houses anywhere in the LA area. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the deal goes through ok. Ron noticed that lots around here (20 miles from Yosemite) are selling for $10-20,000 per acre depending on the view.
The advertisements and hype on the local news about the fantastic new roller coaster that was opening at Magic Mountain (a Six Flags Park) on the 23rd of March made this roller coaster fan want to go. Mark and Ana were working so Ron and I went. It was an awful day. Besides being cold, all we did was stand in line. It took us six hours of standing in lines to ride four rides. Never again. And the roller coaster wasn't that good either.
One day, while we were in Valencia, Ron and I went for a ride west on route 126 from the campground. There were lots of orange groves and fruit stands the whole way. We ended up in Ventura and noticed that the Channel Islands National Park visitors center was there. We spent quite a bit of time learning about the islands that are at least 11 miles out from the coast.Very interesting. Someday, maybe we can actually visit them. There were lots of boats advertising whale watching trips. That would be fun some day too. On the way home we stopped and bought fresh oranges and dates. Yummy!!!
Probably the most frustrating thing we have to deal with is the phone service and the US post office. So many times we run into pay phones from some Mickey Mouse company and we can't get through to At&t and if we do, they then block out the touch tone feature so we can't get into our voice box. I am almost ready to take up HAM radio.
The mail service** has gotten worse with the rate increase and it wasn't
good before that. It is now taking five days for priority mail to go from
Colorado to California. Outrageous. Our mail leaves Denver on Fridays
and we are lucky to get it on Wednesday. In Bullhead City nothing worked.
Our mail didn't arrive until Thursday and I had to call Margerie in Denver
to get into our voice mail and relay the message to us.
It looks like we will get into Yosemite by April 1.
*Fiesta Resorts went out of the Coast to Coast system after our visit. The campground is still in a good location---convenient to LA. The new name is Valencia Travel Village.
** Not Escapees. In fact we finally changed to Escapees and all problems
regarding mail ended.
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