Out of the Desert and onto the Beach

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We crossed into Mexico on February 15, 2018. We were told by the border guard that she couldn’t stamp our passports and that I had to go into the office. Paul pulled over and waited. And waited. And waited. I was in the office for such a long time, and a young man kept coming to check on me and was apologetic. I think the only person who could stamp our passports was involved in a deep game of Candy Crush and refused to stamp them. He was going to show me! So, we never got our passports stamped.

Paul went to the insurance office, which was only a matter of meters from the border. I stayed in the Chinook and I staved off window washers. Those guys don’t take “no” for an answer. The insurance office had to call the office in Puerto Peñasco to get the price that Ted negotiated for on our behalf, and it all went smoothly. However, we only got the policy, but not the receipt, which we need to give to our Canadian insurance company for a refund when we return. Something else to do.

Ted and Dona are staying at a full-service park, Playa Bonita, but we stayed just down the beach at Concha del Mar. It is family owned and operated. It is dry-camping, but the showers are hot and free, and for $11/night, we were satisfied. Yes, we were satisfied — until night came.

There is a nearby nightclub that blasts music starting at 10 pm on weekends. That first night (Thursday), it went on until 3:30. However, the next night (Friday), it was much worse. A mariachi band, complete with several trumpets, played from 10 pm – 5:15 am. Then, from 5:15-6 am, it was “open mike”. At that point, I was so delirious from lack of sleep that I couldn’t stop laughing. This one man could only play the low E-string on his guitar while he did some sort of Mexican yodeling.

The next morning, we walked over to Ted and Dona’s park to see if other people had heard it. Yes, it was audible there too. Ted and Dona drove us around to find a new park far from the madding nightclub.

So, on Saturday, we moved to Playa de Oro. It is a full-service park, and more expensive ($22/night), but quiet. Also, the beach is more picturesque and accessible. We stayed there Saturday night and returned to Concha del Mar on Sunday. What a difference a good sleep makes!

Of course, there was still a nearby party Sunday night, but the wind was so fierce that it drowned it out. We stayed from Sunday-Thursday at that park. There are things we liked about that park (the owners and workers and the fact that it was open parking), but it was like staying at a drydock. There was a crew of workers that repaired, washed & waxed, and painted RVs and cars. Most of the work was done on-site, but sometimes they took vehicles to a shop.  For example, Donna Dee had the side of her truck painted ($450 US). They took it to a shop, but most RVs are just done at the park. They actually turn out quite well, considering all the dust and sand.  I was very impressed by the speed and care taken.

One day, Paul asked the owner where he gets his hair cut. The owner said, “My wife. She can do yours too, but she’s up a ladder waxing an RV right now.” Yup. They do it all! The next day, Paul got his $3-hair cut.

Our neighbour had his graphics removed and painted.  It turned out better than new.

On Thursday February 22, 2017, we moved back to Playa de Oro to avoid the nightclub madness (and to get wifi — glorious wifi!). We decided to stay at this park until we leave. It is really cutting into our budget (yes, Mexico is proving to be more expensive than the US for us), but it is quieter and we can walk to more places (and I have wifi to update the blog). The malecon is only a 35-minute walk.

Unfortunately, where there is a beach, there are fireworks.  Also, it was an American long weekend.  Luckily, there weren’t many fireworks, and people called it a night by 9 pm, but still Poppy has to wear her Thundershirt on weekends.

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Nevertheless, both girls love the beach.  Poppy chases seagulls and bites the waves.  Daisy just likes a soft landing when she loses her balance.

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About Poppy and her slender body — One man asked us if we got her here in Mexico.  No, she just looks like a homeless dog.  A Mexican woman who came to our RV selling snacks told Poppy to “Eat! Eat!” in Spanish.  So funny!

There is an excellent rescue organization here: Barb’s Dog Rescue.  I had read about it a few years ago on a blog.  We met people here in this park who go there to volunteer and they are also fostering a dog in their RV.  They invited us to join them.  I really want to; however, with Daisy’s weakened immune system, we can’t this year.  We will definitely help out if we are back this way next year.  For this year, we can only make food donations.  Thank you to Barb and all the volunteers.

We plan to stay one more week, and then we are heading back north. It’s hard to believe that it will be March on Thursday. Many RVers are already heading back to their home States and Provinces. We won’t be heading back that quickly.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Needless to say, we didn’t cross into Mexico with the “Party Bus.” Since we were so far south, we headed to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This is a must-see stop for anyone interested in desert landscapes. It is massive (1,338 km²), and you really need a tow-behind vehicle to explore the scenic roads, so we just did some of the hiking trails.

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We camped in the park at Twin Peaks Campground. Once again, this is dry-camping only, but the campsites are well spaced, level, and clean.  Actually, this is a very beautiful campground.  The showers are solar heated, so they weren’t attractive at this time of year.  I’m glad we have a wet-bath in our Chinook.

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Organ Pipe Cactus

While we were camping, we met Ray from Love Your RV, and his little sidekick, Angie the Beagle. He was producing many YouTube videos during his stay. We have since watched some of them, and they are spectacular.

Our first stop was the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. It was named after a ranger who was killed by a Mexican drug smuggler in 2002. Most of the park was closed after that until 2014. Today, there are armed border patrol officers everywhere, which was strange to see in a national park.

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The visitor center has a ranger program, so we stayed for a brief lecture and also studied the exhibits.

The weather was turning, so we decided to stay for the rain and hoped to see this “green desert” turn green.

Dead cacti are also beautiful.  We learned that termites are essential for breaking down deadfall.  Otherwise, the desert would preserve and retain it all.

In the meantime, Ted and Dona and the Party Bus made it to Puerto Peñasco. Ted went to an insurance company there and got us a more reasonable quote ($94 US for one month). However, we would have to cross the border and buy it on the Mexican side. Next stop, Mexico!

 

 

Don’t Feed the Coyotes

After we left the Chinook rally, we headed to Ajo and Why, Arizona. Our plan was to meet Ted and Dona in Why and cross the border together on February 11, 2018.

At the Chinook rally, Karen and Kenny told us about a vintage trailer rally that was happening in Why at Coyote Howls East campground. We made it on Saturday evening, but everyone pulled out on Sunday morning, so we didn’t meet anyone, but we did see some beautiful units (too dark for pictures).

Here is one that stuck around after the event:

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We set out early Sunday afternoon to buy our Mexican vehicle insurance. At the Why gas station (insurance provider), we were told our Chinook was too old (It’s a 2002, and I guess, in the Mexican world, that’s vintage), so we had to go back to Ajo to buy insurance. Off we went.

In Ajo, we found the insurance company, but the cost for 2 weeks would be almost $400 US! This was way out of our budget. We had until 4:30 to decide before the office closed. However, we couldn’t contact Ted and Dona or Donna Dee to say we would be backing out. We tried to find wifi all over town. There was a campground across from the IGA, so we asked if we could log in briefly because we were getting desperate. They refused!

The IGA helped us out, and gave us their password. Paul tried and tried to contact Ted and Dona, but they were out of range too, so they didn’t get any of our messages. It just so happened that we looked up and saw the “Party Bus” (Ted and Dona’s Airstream motorhome) carrying all our friends that they had picked up at the airport: Joe & Carla, Jane & Garry, Susan & Chris. Off we were, down the highway trying to catch up!

We met up at the Why gas station, where Ted just put liability on the motorhome. It truly is vintage, and insurance is astronomical. Joe had picked up Daisy’s medications in Saskatoon, and delivered them to us. We honestly didn’t think she’d live this long, but as I’ve said before, Arizona has been good to her. We were so thankful to Joe!

 

At the gas station, you’ll find this “don’t feed the coyotes” sign. We were mocking it because we hadn’t heard any coyotes the previous night. In Saskatchewan, you aren’t camping if you don’t hear coyotes. Well, I learned my lesson about mocking signs. When I went to put the girls back in the motorhome, there was a coyote lurking! He was stalking us. Donna Dee had just let little Tonto scamper about, and the coyote had been watching and salivating. He kept creeping closer to the motorhome, and then backing away. He was so skinny and mangy. He didn’t look like a healthy Saskatchewan coyote. No one would want his fur on a winter parka hood.

Coyote Howls East campground is dry-camping only but there are water spigots and shower houses.  The price was reasonable — $9/night.

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Early that evening, a coyote walked past our campsite while we were preparing dinner.  That night, things picked up!  There were coyotes yipping everywhere!  The campground was alive!  Coyotes are bilingual, and one was trying to mimic a dog to lure the girls out.  I made them hold “it” until morning.

I was not going to feed the coyotes.

Chinookery

We left Oasis Palms RV resort in Thermal and headed towards Borrego Springs.  We camped in a free site, but this time it wasn’t on BLM land.  It is land owned by the Avery family (Avery labels and office supplies).  They have lots of land out this way, but they have left some of it for the public.  There are signs where it is private, but the rest is open.  The property was very clean.  People are respectful and do not leave trash around.  There are some good hiking trails in the hills (but too precarious to carry a camera up there).

We met up with Yves and Boogaloo again.  Sadly, the Land Rover is out of commission.  Yves accidentally towed it in first gear, so the engine is dead.  He has put out an SOS, and hopefully someone in California will have a spare engine for him.

View from our window and door:

We went in to Borrego Springs to get wifi.  What a sweet town!  The public library has outside benches, free wifi, and charging stations.  There is a nearby post office where people have packages sent “general delivery.”

This is the little mall around the library: (I love the MCM light fixtures)

When we got to town, we saw a Chinook parked, so we parked beside it.  We had a clear view while we were at the library, so when the people returned, we went to talk to them. They asked if we were heading to the Chinook rally in Yuma.  What rally?  That got our wheels literally in motion.

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That evening, Yves wanted to have a potluck, so he invited some nearby campers, and we had a delicious Mexican meal, complete with French beignets.

Daisy loved it there, and she had many walkabouts:

Yves got busy and gave Boogaloo a shave.  Yves said, “I don’t do fantasy.”  Boogaloo just got a basic shave down.  He must have felt so much cooler.

We were hoping to stay another day, but we got talking and thought we should head back to Yuma to find the Chinookers.

Yuma truly is the centre of the universe!  We keep finding our way back!  We found the Chinook rally, and they welcomed us.  It turned out that another couple paid their fees but couldn’t make it and couldn’t get a refund.  We got their spot.  It was very exciting for us because the only Chinook we had ever seen was ours (and the one in Borrego Springs).

Find our Chinook:

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The oldest is the crowd was a 1999, so they all were pretty hard to tell apart.  We had an ID tag made for Poppy with our Chinook on it.  If she got lost, we had hoped someone would locate the RV from the picture.  Ha!  Not in this crowd!

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Bob and Debbie also have a Destiny.  It’s a 2001, and they’ve owned it since it was 2 years old.  They were a fun couple.  Bob collected all the brochures he could get his hands on while Chinook was still in business.  We got to pore over them one afternoon.  Delightful!

Karen and Kenny also arrived late like us, and they were not members either.  Karen is my trailer soul mate!  You should see the trailers that have followed her home!  She has renovated some serious machines.  She has even sold trailers that found their ways to RV parks to be used as rentals.  One trailer, a rare Aeroflyte, was listed on eBay, and a museum was bidding against a personal collector.  Check out this 1959 Spartan that she sold to Enchanted Trails.  Three of her former trailers are at this park.  We hope to stay in touch to see what projects they are working on.  Kenny built a “tiny house” 25 years ago, long before anyone had heard of them.  He built it to take to swap meets so that he had shelter and a washroom.

Tomorrow (Sunday February 11, 2018), we are heading into Mexico.  Our first stop will be Puerto Peñasco.  Six friends are flying in from Saskatoon and Calgary.  Ted and Dona are picking them up at the airport.  Then we are all driving over together.

Here is a local treat that we indulged in on the way.  They are sold everywhere in southern Arizona and California.  Try one when you are this way!

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Salton Sea, CA

After leaving Slab City, we drove around to the western side of the Salton Sea, but we backtracked by going south and then around so that we could see Salton City.

Here is Spreckels Sugar in Brawley, CA.  I actually took this picture on our way to Slab City.  What’s interesting is that the sea level is marked on the side of the structure.  That’s how low it is here.

The Salton Sea is an environmental disaster, not unlike the Aral Sea.  Instead of learning from the mistakes made by diverting water from rivers that flowed to the Aral, history is repeating itself here.  Water from the Colorado river is diverted for farming, but also for San Diego and the Coachella Valley.  This is expected to increase over the next year, causing the Sea to shrink even further.  It is having disastrous effects, both on the wildlife and humans.

Back in the 1960s, Salton City was developed and was intended to be a beach community.  All the infrastructure was put in place, but with a dying sea, the town died too.  It looks like a ghost town.  What a sad state!  However, the population has started to rise in the last few years due to rising housing costs in California.  You can buy a serviced lot in Salton City for less than $5000!  Of course, it comes with health risks because the Sea is in such poor shape.

We stopped and made lunch at what was supposed to be a parking lot for the beach.  Poppy was ecstatic to roll around on the polluted shore.  We let her.  Life is short!

This is the avenue leading to the beach parking lot.  There are 2 lanes leading there and 2 leading away on the other side of the median.  The city planners had expected lots of traffic.  Now, it looks post-apocalyptic with all the dead palm trees and crumbling pavement.IMG_7229

This is the beach parking lot, where we made our lunch.  We were wondering if Mad Max would show up.  Eerie.

Of course, a beach is a beach, and dogs must have fun.

We tried to brush off the dusty sand from Poppy’s fur before she got into the Chinook, but it was deep in her fur.  Whenever she shook, there was a cloud of polluted dusty sand in the air.  Mmm!  Then, we all got to inhale it.

Next, something wonderful happened.

We arrived at Oasis Palms RV Resort and discovered something we hadn’t seen in months . . .

. . . G R A S S ! !

Imagine the dogs’ joy!

Imagine our joy!  We could finally give Poppy a bath!  Before she could sprinkle more of that Salton Sea dust around, we lathered her up.  We are near a town called Thermal, so the water from the pipe came out warm, so I didn’t even need to warm her bath water.

Here she is, all fresh and clean!

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It didn’t take long for her fur to dry in the late afternoon sun.  Of course, Poppy had to lick herself a bit to “improve” her scent.  She wouldn’t want the other dogs to think she was one of those kinds of dogs!

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Oasis Palms RV Resort is one of the nicest parks we have ever stayed at.  The facilities are well-maintained, clean, and orderly, and we can pick fruit from any of the trees in the park.  The best part is that the managers are dog-lovers and dogs basically run freely within reason.  They can go in the buildings and in the pool and hot tub area.  There is a fire pit with a mountain of firewood.  The managers start the fire every afternoon for happy hour, and the dogs are welcome to come to happy hour.  Poppy is in her glory!  Daisy also enjoys watching all the dogs play.  There is a separate “dog run”, but it’s mostly for the dogs who are high energy and don’t play well in the public areas.

When we were in Yuma, the RV park we stayed at was pretty run-down.  It wasn’t anywhere close to being in the same league as this one, yet there were still people there watching every move the dogs made.  Some insisted that dogs be taken outside the park to pee (like a dog can hold it on the walk to get beyond the entrance!  HA!).  This park is glorious, and dogs bounce and play together everywhere in the park.  There was a concert tonight in the clubhouse, and 2 dogs where wrestling on a sofa near the stage.

The RV park is fairly well situated to the Palm Springs area.  Today, we went to Palm Desert, Indio, and La Quinta with Ted and Dona.  This evening, we went somewhere special for dinner.

There is a Mexican family that lives fairly close to the park.  On Saturday nights, they set up a shelter and tables in front of their house and cook up Mexican food for the locals.  Someone got wind of this in the park, and the secret gets passed on to new park residents, and we got in on it!  Dona got 2 quesadillas, Ted & Paul got 2 tostadas and a beer each, and I got 2 tostadas and a pop.  The food was divine!  Our bill came to $25.25 for the 4 of us!

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East Jesus: Slab City

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East Jesus is not a religious site, as the name might imply.  It is actually, an ever-expanding sculpture garden.  The artists that live in this section of The Slabs work daily on new art, which is mostly composed of refuse from around Slab City.  They work off-grid on these sculptures.  It is meant to show the public what recycling and sustainability can be.  I think it also shows how much waste were produce.  Some of the art is thought-provoking, some is funny, some is down-right crazy.

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I love this MCM chair.  I feel this sculpture represents my former life when I was marking term papers while sitting on my orange fibreglass chair. 😉

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Bottle wall:

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Television message board: (Free thought, only $89.99)

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There were several bizarre installations about dolphins.IMG_7083

and vehicles . . .

car-b-cue anyone?

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and other stuff . . .

This is one of the artists personal trailer.  How cute is this?

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We are thankful to Ted and Dona again, who came out to visit us on the Slabs so that we could tour East Jesus and Salvation Mountain.  We had so much fun!

God is Love: Salvation Mountain

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As soon as you enter Slab City, you will be welcomed by Salvation Mountain.  It is the creation of Leonard Knight.  He started building this in 1984.  In 1994, the County tried to have it torn down, but today it is registered as a National Folk Art Site.

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There are flowers, waterfalls, and the Sea of Galilee depicted, along with messages of love and repentance.

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This structure is nothing short of monumental.  I can’t imagine the drive he had to build in the blazing sun of the Sonoran Desert.  He built using adobe clay, straw, tires, and anything he could find.  Then, he painted it all.  Of course, this structure needs constant maintenance, and there is a non-profit group that works to preserve it.

You can climb the mountain by following the “yellow brick road.”  It is a little precarious, so I feel for those volunteers who willingly go up to painstakingly apply paint.

Paul and Ted at the top:

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Looking down from the top:

Adjacent to the mountain is the “Hogan.”  It is built from 80 bails of straw.  I found it peaceful and a reprieve from the blazing sun.

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Around the structure are several vehicles, also decorated, including an Airstream.

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At the top and out a little way there was a geocache, so we were able to deposit the Travel Bug we got near Yuma.

Overall, I loved Salvation Mountain.  It is a masterpiece.  It was uplifting and cheerful.  I couldn’t help comparing it to the Sistine Chapel, which I found to be oppressive.  And, Salvation Mountain is free!