Hey! There’s a Pebble in My Hair!

You know it has been a good ride when you find a pebble in your hair!

When I was young, I always thought it would be fun to have a go-kart. And Al always said he wanted a Jeep — you know, the kind where you can feel the air blowing through your hair.

Not to be totally outdone by Scarlett (our red F350) and Rhett (our RV), here are Vivien and Clark—our new cargo trailer and Polaris RZR XP 1000 Trails and Rocks Edition! (RZR is pronounced “razor.”)

Vivien, being chaperoned by Scarlet and Rhett.
We don’t have a “Toy Hauler,” but now we have a toy! Introducing Clark.

Yeah, that’s right. Some would say we’re having some sort of a mid-life crisis. But nah…we’re just havin’ fun! Living on the desert for another year means that there’s LOTS to explore. We have lots of friends who have side-by-sides (what they’re called here) and who ride out on the desert for all-day frolics.

So far, we’ve gone out every day for a week and we’re HAVING A BLAST! We’re adding some accessories to make it easier to carry stuff (extra gas, extra water, spare tire…).

It is so much fun to ride out on the miles and miles of trails that are accessible in our area. It reminds me very much of the snowmobile trail systems in NH and Maine. We know that we will run into far more people on their side-by-sides in the winter but for now, we’ve pretty much got the trails to ourselves (except for the roadrunners, quail, and desert bunnies).

Al having a whole lot of fun!
Al having a whole lot of fun!
Kathe rarin' to go!
Kathe rarin’ to go!

The trail maps that are available both in paper copy and electronically are not 100% accurate but we have a ‘track me’ mapping program on Al’s phone that assures us that we’ll always being able to return from whence we came.

Our longest trip so far was 35 miles, the first of many trips we plan to take in the KOFA (King of Arizona) National Wildlife Refuge. It’s more than a half million acres and stunning. The trip took us a several hours—no land speed records here: we seem to average about 10 MPH! The trails can be pretty bumpy and tons of fun. There were some great hills and dips—and I’m sure that with experience, we’ll venture farther and hit some bigger hills–what goes up must come down, right? Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

Because we’re not yet completely set up for self-rescue, for instance to change tires, we’re limiting our first escapes (escapades?) to the area near the town. But even there, there are things to surprise us. For instance there are petroglyphs in Quartzsite! Who knew?

Petroglyphs just a few miles from home (contrast significantly enhanced).
More petroglyphs, next to the others (also contrast enhanced)

There are other signs of earlier people here, some possibly ancient. Near the petroglyphs are mortar grinding holes.

Grinding holes

We also have nearby intaglios. These are much smaller than the ones in Blythe that we wrote about last year, and we have no information about how old they are.

Intaglios

There are also signs of early non-indigenous settlers, remains of foundations, cisterns, and cabins.

One of the more complete remains in the area.

On one of our rides, we found a marble quarry. (Al has already made all the jokes about cat’s eyes and shooters, so don’t bother!) So far I have been unable to find any record of it in the AZ Geological Survey material available online, but there are modern “No Trespassing,” and “Restricted area” signs, but no signs of activity. There is a satellite antenna on the office roof, possibly for Internet. Who knows.

The quarry area is large, not much is visible from the road/trail.

There are also desert artifacts from the current population. For instance, a golf course!

With a sofa to await your tee time, we guess!
Probably disc golf, since the “hole” is about 15 feet in diameter!

The machine is new and its drivers are inexperienced. We’re each breaking the other in. We’re taking it somewhat easy on Clark until its first service (which won’t be too long from now at this rate). We’re learning about driving on different surfaces; hard-packed desert floor is very different from the deep, loose, gravel that forms the beds of the washes. The trails we’ve been riding so far are relatively flat, with only occasional down hills and rises going into and out of washes. “You mean I have to drive up (down) THAT????” There are more challenging surfaces to come. When we’re equipped to leave the immediate Quartzsite area (leave the nest?), we’ll head toward the mountains nearby. There, the trails become much more challenging. And FUN!

We’ve gone toward the mountains to our west; the foothills are actually just a few miles out of town.

Here is an overview of a trail we took. It was our most challenging to date.

We’ve been sharing the driving and we both love it!

Here is what some of it looked like to us. Warning: this clip is sped up 2x, to give a flavor of some of the types of trails here without taking forever.

Yes, this is also playing at 2X normal speed. Whew!

You can see that there is an established network of trails; we’re not just riding willy-nilly across the desert. In fact, “off road,” i.e., off trail travel is prohibited here on the BLM and USFS land. One wonders how all these trails were established. Before regulations? Maybe we’ll find out this coming winter when there will be many (many!) more riders on the trails.

Many of these trails have even been given identification numbers by the BLM.

Desert street signs

There is a lot of beauty here on the desert. Different plants have been blooming across the past several weeks. We now have saguaro, ocotillo, and the beautiful pink ironwood trees in bloom.

Saguaro blooms
Saguaro, staghorn cholla, and ocatillo. No social distancing for them!
We’ve never seen a saguaro with this many arms before. But we’re still new here!
Ironwood

Jumping cholla cactus will stick to ANYTHING! They have barbed needles that are extremely sharp. Al had an encounter with one at Joshua Tree NP last year. It looks like Clark had an encounter today! No, I’m not about to try to take it off—until I figure out how to do it safely.

Clark is an “off-road vehicle.” It is fortunate that the back gate of our current RV park opens to parts of the trail system around town. However, there are other sections of the trails which require traveling on the public roads. This means for now that we have to put the RZR into its trailer and pull it to a trailhead. However, in Arizona and several other states in the west, these machines can be made “street legal,” and operated on the road system. We have the parts on order to do that conversion, then it will simply be a matter of waiting for the Motor Vehicle Department, which at this point is very backlogged. That will make it much simpler to make more use of the trails around here. It will also be very nice to not have to take Scarlett every time we want to go into town!

More fun to come!

It’s great to get our side-by-side feet under us when the trails are so quiet. We try to get back before the heat of the day or later in the day. Our good friends from Montana (who introduced Al to their side-by-side last year) will return to Q later this year – can’t wait to do some trail rides together.

Arizona, Mid-Spring: Feels like summer to US!

First things first.

We hope that all of you and those you love are staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. But we know it is likely not true for some of you. Our thoughts are with you.

We are fortunate that the known case count here in LaPaz county is still only 7. However, that may be because the county has only tested a handful of people. We are sure there are more infected people around, so we are taking as many precautions as we can when we go out, particularly when we have to go to Phoenix, which is the primary virus hot spot for Arizona.

We have moved from our winter home on the desert to the commercial campground in Quartzsite that Kathe mentioned in the last post. It is already quite hot (105 today, and even hotter tomorrow), so we may need to reconsider our plans to stay in Quartzsite for the summer. Time will tell—stay tuned. Thank goodness for “shore power,” so we can run the ACs; it still stays comfortable in the RV.

Cacti are blooming!

So… what to do? What to do? We’re riding our bikes around town, which is now constrained to the (very) early morning. We hope to build up our endurance, but for now with the shape we’re in and the heat, we’re limiting our rides to about 7 or 8 miles. I know…we’re pikers! Trying to get out most days.

Quartzsite has several miles of bike paths alongside the town streets . We use the paths where we can, and ride the quiet side streets when necessary. We’ve been able to do lots of exploring and enjoy the lizards and quail that often dart in front of us.

All of the street names in town are designated with a compass direction: North, South, East, or West. Part of this is probably to be able to visualize where a street is without checking a map, but c’mon. The town is just not that big. (We’re not in Washington, DC!)

But there is another reason. Being in the desert, the town is riven with washes, those paths that drain heavy rains out of the nearby mountains.

One of the larger washes through town.

The very first piece of advice we got about camping on the desert here back in 2018 was, “Don’t camp in a wash!” Ya think???

Some roads cross the washes on bridges. Some roads just follow the terrain down into the wash and back up. “Do not enter when flooded” signs are a common sight in town.

But some roads… ummm… don’t. Some roads simply stop on one side of the wash and then pick up again on the other side. For instance, West Cowell isn’t connected to East Cowell at all. Pro tip: Not all in-car navigation systems are aware of this!

Here, the road just drops down into the wash and back out again.
Good advice!
In Montana, this would be for snow. Not here!

While we’re out and around biking the side streets we notice that lots of the plants are flowering. As we go past the same places with each day’s rides, we notice that bud to blossom to past is sometimes the matter of only two or three days. As always, click on a picture below to see a larger version.

We’ve also noticed that cottontail bunny rabbits are almost as abundant as squirrels are back east. They seem to be a lot more skittish, though. We haven’t been able to get a picture of one for the blog yet.

There is also a fair amount of “public art” around town. This is not commissioned art in parks, downtown squares (of which there aren’t any), etc., but art of various types put up by property owners.

Kokopelli dancing
A saguaro cactus from welding tanks and caps.
A decorated (real) saguaro

There is a spindly cactus out here called an ocotillo; it has tiny leaves, which limits moisture loss through transpiration. Out at the edge of town on one of the bike paths there is an ocotillo made of rebar. (It loses even less moisture through transpiration!)

Ocotillo out in the desert
Ocotillo blossoms
Rebar ocotillo!

Kathe’s major activity for the past several weeks is helping to produce our Bar Harbor church’s streamed worship service. Each week’s process is getting more and more efficient as she becomes more familiar with the tools she’s using, primarily the Audacity audio editor and the OpenShot video editor.

Kathe is also quilting up a storm, taking several online courses enjoying learning about free motion quilting something she had never tried before.

Project from Kathe’s Precision Piecing class with Philippa Naylor

I’m puttering at the computer (is that “’putering“?) to learn some new programming tools and some new photography techniques. Two of my hobby projects are writing a program to plot historical Covid data, and rationalizing about 15 years of backups. (How many copies of the Quicken database from 2008 do I really need?) I’m also reading a lot, generally alternating a new book with one I’ve enjoyed before, sort of brain “comfort food.”

We continue to watch a lot of streamed TV. Some of our new favorites are The Great British Baking Show and Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, and Blue Murder, Line of Duty, and Silent Witness on Amazon Prime.

If you’ve found (or rediscovered) one or more favorites to stream, please drop recommendations in the comments! We only have enough queued up to last us through 2022.

We know that we are very fortunate, since we are both healthy, continue to have an income, and have a place in which to shelter away from others. There are so many who don’t have those things right now. I’m probably even more fortunate since I’m an introvert. Social distancing—let’s make that physical distancing—is easier for me than it is for extroverts like Kathe.

So…what are YOU doing? And HOW are you? A wise person recently told me, “It is OK to not be OK.”

We’ll write again soon, even if just to say “same ol’, same ol’.” Keeping in touch is important, especially now.

-Al & Kathe

Quartz + Sight = Change of Plans

A change of plans.

Indeed.

I have held back from posting through the winter (but I guess you already knew that!) because I’ve been rather focused on the health of my siblings and my vision challenges.

I have REALLY felt the distance from my siblings since the fall. We were able to travel to CT for my brother-in-law’s funeral in October. I extended my stay to help my sister through the first days of her grief and sadly, she is now fighting cancer herself. At the same time, my younger sister had some serious health concerns that necessitated her move to a long-term rehab facility. Daily visits to see her were important for both of us as she tried to adjust to her new situation. Believe it or not, also in October, my brother ended up in ICU for 6 days due to a bad combination of prescriptions (that his doc had missed and which the pharmacy had missed too—I learned that MD does NOT require pharmacies to run the safeguard program to catch and red-flag such errors!). He pulled through—thank God!

I returned to AZ early in November fully expecting to make a trip back to spend more time with my sisters in Feb or Mar. My eyes had a different plan for me. Not to bore anyone with any details (and if you follow me on FB, you’ve seen some of this already), but I’ve had 3 surgeries this winter — and finally, the most recent procedure (shunt implant) on my right eye is showing early positive results. I am beyond excited and will now be followed weekly by my glaucoma specialist to be sure the pressure doesn’t go dangerously low.

In the meantime, my left eye is gearing up for ITS same surgery in the not-too-distant future as the pressure is already in the danger zone. This particular surgery can take up to 3 months for full recovery. Back to back surgeries mean I’ll be followed very carefully by my GS right through the summer and beyond.

And then, of course, there is the coronavirus and COVID-19. Ugh. I have decided that the very most difficult challenge is being away from family members who are ill. Providing comfort from a distance through cards, texting, phone calls, and video-chats will have to do. I am so grateful to SO many who are keeping my extended family in their prayers.

We have had to cancel all of our 2020 summer plans to visit more National Parks with our grandsons, Graham and Dean. Hopefully next year…

These changes seem rather minimal as we watch and read about the many sacrifices made by the COVID-19 first responders: health care providers and supporters, police and fire departments, grocery store clerks, pharmacists, and thousands more.

And how are we managing?

Except for 2 grocery runs and one trip to the eye doc in Phoenix, we’ve been self-isolating. That’s not actually very hard to do while we continue to boondock on the desert where we’ve been since early October 2019. With more than 11,000 acres on this BLM Long Term Visitor Area, there is PLENTY of room to keep to yourself.

Another beautiful sunset over a mostly empty desert. You can see some rigs in the distance. You can see the source of the line, “…the purple mountains’ majesty.”
Looking the other way, with the setting sun just touching the tops of the mountains. Again, the rigs are few and far between.

We have been taking walks each day and have been enjoying the colorful flowers that are now making an appearance in the desert. A fair amount of rain this winter has made for a lovely bloom. We do wonder how the desert bloom is in other parts of the southwest where it was rather spectacular a year ago. Anyone know?

We’re filling our time with reading, walking, bingeing on Netflix, etc. (check out our new favorite – The Great British Baking Show), LOTS of quilting (I’m taking several terrific online classes), and too much time on the computer.

We are visiting with our kids and grandkids nearly daily between Facetime and Zoom. Zoom is particularly fun because we can see everyone at once and the connection is excellent. I’ve also been able to visit with my P.E.O. sisters (16 of us) on Zoom–what fun!

We’ve been heartened and absolutely amazed at how our nation’s educators, school districts, and local municipalities have risen to the occasion to keep their students fed, safe, engaged, and supported. Check out this amazing video created by educators in the Corning-Painted Post (NY) School District where our son and daughter-in-law teach.

The church we still belong to in Maine continues to do amazing work and is keeping our church family together through live streaming prayer services, Bible study, and Sunday worship. It’s been so important for us to maintain those connections. Bible study on Zoom with my pastor and other dear friends continues to be a real lifeline for me.

“Home is where the heart is.” For us, home is also where we park it. On March 13th, the sale of our “sticks and bricks” house on Mount Desert Island finally closed, so these 36 feet of trailer are “all we have.” It is a relief to not have the house, but also feels a bit strange.

Did you know that there are ONE MILLION full-time RV’ers in the US? We have received several questions from friends wondering whether we will be able to find a place to stay once the BLM closes the LTVA we’re in, in April, because there are many reports in the news of campgrounds closing . Yes. We have decided to stay put in Quartzsite for the foreseeable future. We too have been keeping abreast of closures of state parks, some national park campgrounds and facilities, as well as an increasing number of private campgrounds. We are glad that we’ve been able to secure a spot in a local private campground here in Quartzsite for April 15-at least Sept 15. We can come back to the BLM land (desert) as of Sept 15 but if it’s still very, very hot, we may just stay put in the private campground where we can run our AC’s! (Solar just doesn’t provide enough power to run AC’s.)

Life feels alien right now, and hard. But we’re uplifted by the resilience of life demonstrated here on the desert by these saguaro and other plants and animals.

A seemingly healthy saguaro cactus, despite significant damage near the bottom.
It is hard to believe they can survive this much damage! Is this from animals looking for water, or insects, or???
If a tree were girdled like this, it would be long dead!

Since our last post (March 6), so much has changed. For all of us.

We hope that this post finds you self-isolated, safe, and healthy!

A Rainy Day: “Did you see the Octobass?”

Hi, Everyone!

Long time, no type. In some aspects it has been a quiet winter (you’ll be able to read about the not-so-quiet part in an upcoming post), so not much to write home about. We haven’t done any real traveling since we arrived in Quartzsite in October.

Recently Kathe had a “free motion quilting” class in Phoenix. I decided that I’d go with her to Phoenix, and find something to do. There have to be some nice trails there on the outskirts that I could wander on.

But it turned out to be a rainy day (yes, Arizona has them). So what to do? Hmmm… I’ll look at the web… Multiple “things to do in Phoenix on a rainy day” lists had the Musical Instrument Museum at, or very near, the top of the list. OK, let’s give it a try. Then I’ll grab some lunch somewhere and see something else in the afternoon.

When I told some of my grandkids that I had gone to the museum, Dean immediately asked, “Did you see the Octobass?”

Oh, yeah.

The Octobass.

The apparent size is accurate, not an artifact of perspective caused by having the instrument in the very close foreground. Note the platform to the left for the musician to stand on, and the fact that the top of the octobass is only an inch or two from the ceiling.

Remote controls for stopping the strings above where a musician could reach.

Dean had obviously read about the museum!

Spoiler alert: I never did go anywhere else. I hadn’t seen everything by the time I had to go pick up Kathe at 4:00. Phew! (And the lunch in the museum cafe was surprisingly good!)

The museum is organized in a few different ways; one is by geography. There are rooms dedicated to the instruments from these areas: Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and America and Canada. Within each room, the instruments from different cultures and regions are grouped for display.

Each display in the museum has a video screen showing related music making. Everyone gets a wearable receiver / headset that picks up the audio for the screen if you are within about five feet. This made it much more interesting than if there were simply static displays. Several of the pictures below show these video screens.

Here are a few examples of the regional displays.

Northwest China
Highly decorated instruments from Egypt
From Afghanistan
Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan
Saudi Arabia: Yamaha made keyboards with different tunings, sounds, and rhythms for Middle East musical genres
Uganda
Cape Verde
A wooden “slit drum” from the Central African Republic

Some of the displays contained traditional dress and ceremonial costumes.

Ceremonial dress from Sierra Leone

Something that hit me quite strongly was the similarity of instrument designs used around the world, and the diversity of the music they produce when used in different cultures.

It seems that almost all the string instruments fall into the categories of “zither” and “lute,” which are then modified by how the string is caused to vibrate, for example, “strummed,” “plucked,” or “struck.” You’ll see some examples below.

There is also a room highlighting various famous artists—or should I say, the instruments used by various famous artists! Also a room for guitars, for mechanical instruments such as player pianos, music boxes, etc., and a room for playing (with?) a variety of instruments.

Guitars: plucked lutes

Guitars are one of the most widespread instruments; they are manufactured on every continent except Antarctica. Now there is an opportunity for the over-winterers! Be the first!

Here are a (very) few of the guitars in the guitar room. Click on an image to see a bigger version with some brief descriptive text.

Other Lutes

Beside guitars, the lute family includes mandolins, ukuleles, and… ummm… lutes. But wait! There’s more!

Zithers

Many cultures have what we would call a hammer dulcimer; the museum uses the more generic name “struck zither.” Here are a few examples from around the world. Again, click on a picture to see the instrument’s name and country of origin.

Other zithers were on display as well, both strummed and plucked. This family includes harps, and autoharps. Here are a few of the many on display.

A plucked concert zither, from Missouri
A qānūn, a plucked zither, from Egypt
A benju, a keyed zither, from Pakistan

Mechanical players

The mechanical instruments room doesn’t include record players, tape recorders (am I dating myself?), or other similar machines. That is probably because they are music reproduction machines, not music creating machines. But there is certainly a wide range of the latter represented!

Player piano AND violin!

One of the interesting things about the combination piano and violin (above) is that it uses electric instead of pneumatic controls.

A player…. trumpet???

Despite the card calling this a “mouth organ” in the title, the fine print in the description calls it a “player trumpet.” Who knew?

“Just” a music box?

Boy, that music box looks just like the one I had as a kid!

Yeah. Right.

A player organ with flute (wide) and “string” (narrow) pipes.

One item in the mechanical room that I couldn’t get a picture of (too big) was a “portable” many-instrument item. It was about 15 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It was designed to be moved, but had to be disassembled to do so.

Elkhart, Indiana

Every RVer knows that Elkhart is the world capital of RVs, with more manufactured there than anywhere else by a large margin.

I was very surprised to learn that it also claims the title of the world capital of band instruments, manufactured by the Conn company and other Elkhart-based companies, many of which were started by former Conn employees.

The Elkhart story

Finally, a few special instruments

For various reasons, a few of the instruments I saw were special to me.

Back in the early ’60’s, my brother and our father built a Theremin from plans in Popular Electronics magazine. You may not know the name, but you have almost certainly heard a Theremin or derivative instrument. Think of the eerie varying pitched tones in grade B sci-fi movies. I never knew it was a legitimate instrument, used in concerts by Clara Rockwood. Here is one actually built by Lev Sergeyevich Teremin (a.k.a. Léon Theremin), and given to Clara.

The loop on the left and the stick on the right are antennas. One controls pitch, the other, volume. You control the instrument by moving your hands closer to or farther away from the antennas, without ever touching them.

Nashua First Church bell choir, you need these! This G1 is the lowest-pitched handbell currently in production. Using aluminum instead of brass for the larger bells cuts the weight by half.

Is this a cross between a violin and a trumpet? No, it is a cross between a violin and an old-style phonograph. The horn is for amplification.

This next one caught my attention because of the WHY??? factor. It is an electric steel guitar with FOUR fingerboards… OK, you musicians out there. WHY? Is there a human 2.0 option for a few extra pairs of arms?

The Quad Stringmaster, by Fender

And finally, one that had me close to tears. Children in Paraguay scavenge refuse dumps, to make instruments from the waste they find. Here a viola (bowed lute) from an old paint can, using a discarded fork for the tailpiece. The urge to create music is strong!

Reclaimed viola

In closing:

  • if music is your passion,
    • GO;
  • if you enjoy music to relax you,
    • GO;
  • if you have ever heard music,
    • GO;
  • if you have ever heard the word music…
    • GO to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix!

What a difference…

What a difference a year makes!

Only now do we realize how much we were in “vacation, ” or “tourist” mode for all of last fall. Go here, see that.

It was a wonderful trip down to the Arizona desert in 2018, taking about 9,000 miles. Hope you enjoyed traveling with us via our posts. But we’ve not made many posts this year (OK, this is only the second one). We have entered fully into “living” mode in the RV.

Having left the northeastern corner of the country for the indeterminate future, we had to decide what to do with doctors. We could keep our current ones, but that would mean returning to Maine and MDI moderately frequently–not the easiest place in the world to travel to. So we decided to create a new locus for our health care needs.

Our current expectation is that the longest period of time that we will spend in any one place for the foreseeable future is here in southwestern Arizona. So we decided to use the Phoenix area as our new medical “home.”

Being the fifth largest city in the US, and being a mecca for retirees, Phoenix has a plethora of doctors: doctors with expertise in the vicissitudes of aging (ageing for those of you outside the US and Canada).

Also, being the 5th largest city comes with first world problems!

So, much of the last several weeks has been spent starting relationships with various doctors in the Phoenix area. One of the advantages of trips to Phoenix is that it has a great ham radio store (and restaurants, well-stocked supermarkets, other stores, and…)!

Kathe had an unresolved issue while being treated in Maine when it came time to leave, so her doctor put us in touch with an appropriate specialist in Phoenix and suggested that we get there sooner than later. Kathe was able to get an appointment in the near future, so this trip south was very different from last year’s. We basically plotted a straight line from Indiana to Quartzsite, and boogied on down with mostly one night stops and a few two nighters. Not the way we normally enjoy traveling, but possible. That’s why there haven’t been pics taking you along as we explored new places.

So beside saying “Aaaahhhhh,” and following the instructions to “Look straight ahead at the white light,” what else are we doing?

Mostly it has to do with people. We are enriching friendships with people we met last year and those we met 30 years or so ago. And making new friends.

Henk and Mary, renewing friendships from long ago. We’re in Palm Canyon, in Kofa NWR.

Kathe is getting back into quilting, and I’m starting (finally) to do some hobby programming. (I didn’t do ANY programming the first year of retirement, which stunned me.) We’ve gotten our bikes tuned up ready for some riding this winter. Kathe will be taking her first classes at the local Gem and Mineral Club in the next few weeks: silverwork, lapidary, and faceting.

We have also returned to an old favorite hobby: amateur radio. You may know it as ham radio. We are in the process of putting up some antennas that will make it possible for us to make contacts not only locally but also around the country and hopefully, internationally. Kathe made three contacts yesterday — her first in more than ten years!

This year’s site on the desert is a bit of a “neighborhood” — we’re camped next to our friends James and Gloria. We’re farther back from the main road which means far less dust. We’ve edged our large “sites” with rocks and the areas around the antenna poles (we both have one) are landscaped with white quartz rocks. After all, this is Quartzsite; there are plenty available!

Our current ham antenna “farm”: a 40 meter dipole antenna for Kathe, and a 2m / 70cm vertical antenna for Al.
(L to R) Rhett, Scarlet, James’ ham antennas, James and Gloria’s Solitude (our antennas are just out of frame, to the left).

Astronomy and night photography are very well-suited for desert skies. We are keeping better updated on meteor showers, etc. If we can successfully stay up late (always a challenge!) or get up during the night (even MORE of a challenge) to hit a the peak of a shower, we’re sure to be rewarded. It’s dark out here!

We also plan to do some exploring of the southwest this winter. We only did one local trip all of last winter, to Joshua Tree NP. We hope to do many more than that, and already have a trip planned to Death Valley in February.

Thank goodness for airplanes, cell phones, and the Internet. We’ve really felt the distance from family this fall and it’s been difficult at times. Fortunately, we were able to easily return to New England for some much needed family time last month. Before and after that visit, we’ve kept in touch throughout each day; the coverage here on the desert is pretty darned good right now. Distance is never insurmountable when love for family is of utmost importance.

As we look ahead to the holidays, it’s still kind of weird to see decorations available (including snowmen, icicle lights, etc.) at Lowe’s and Walmart alongside huge greenhouses spilling over with flowering shrubs, hanging baskets, and cacti—especially when the temps are in the high 80’s and low 90’s!

We know that the MDI area has been having some pretty spectacular sunsets recently, but this wouldn’t be a “Lobsters” post without one of ours.

OK… Without two of ours!

As always, we hope that this finds you well and enjoying life. Thanks for traveling with us, and keep in touch!

-Al and Kathe: The Lobsters

The Merge…the PURGE!

We’re finally reunited with Scarlett and Rhett! We were gone for exactly eight, very busy weeks, and it is good to be back!

Reunited! That’s the Grand Design service facility in the background.

With the help of friends, and through a combination of sales, gifts, donations to charities, and (many) trips to the town transfer station (no longer called a “dump”), our house on Mount Desert Island is completely empty and on the market. Do you want a house in great shape on the coast of Maine, right outside Acadia National Park??? Hey, you can’t blame me for trying. Both of our cars were sold.

So strange to see the house completely empty!
Echo…echo…echo

A highlight of the “sale” part of cleaning the house was Kathe’s MEGA fiber sale! Imagine 40+ years of “stash,” for spinning, weaving, knitting, and traditional rug hooking.

Yarns galore!
Fabric for all you quilters
Miscellany
Did we mention yarn?

We saw many of our Maine friends, but certainly not all that we would have liked to. To those we weren’t able to see, we’re sorry; we simply ran out of time. On September 19 we started our trip back to Indiana to get back to our truck and rig. Why Indiana, the world capital of RVs?

Well, we didn’t exactly blab about this at the time, although some of you know it by now. Back in late May, we had an accident with the trailer that damaged the left side pretty severely, but didn’t affect the driveability or operation at all. Since we had our Utah extravaganza with grandsons Graham and Dean coming up, we elected to defer repair until after their visit was over. Due to the extent of the damage, we asked the manufacturer, Grand Design RV, if they would put us in their repair queue. They agreed, so rather than leave the rig out west when we returned to Maine to get the house ready for the market as we had planned, we drove it to Indiana.

Repairs made, the trailer is as good as (actually, better than) new! We’re ready for more adventures!

When emptying the house, we were guided by the thought behind this strategy for de-cluttering. You may know it. Make three piles:

  1. Things to keep,
  2. Things to sell or give away, and
  3. Things that should be thrown out.

All piles must be equally sized.

We did that, pretty successfully… But we were pretty aggressive—as if we had taken pile 1, and made three piles.

Some of the items from the small pile 1 we wanted to have with us, despite not having needed them over the past year—for instance, outplacing similar items we had acquired over the year when we noticed they were missing.

Other things in pile 1 were kept because we wanted to be able to save some memories for when we eventually come off the road and set up housekeeping in another “sticks and bricks” house. What to do with those? Fortunately, our son, Mike, agreed to store those at his family’s house. Thank you, Mike! So, rental van loaded, we started back to Indiana via Nashua, NH to see some of our “pre-Maine” friends, and Corning, NY to spend a week with Mike’s family (and drop off some of pile 1).

We’re going through the things we have in the camper, judging whether each has paid its “rent,” i.e., been useful / used enough to warrant the space and weight it has consumed. Books can be donated to the wonderful library in Quartzsite; we have our Kindle readers. Some fabric can be shared with the quilting group. We’re about to dramatically cull through our clothes, too; we’ve got much more than we need. It’s actually quite liberating to find ROOM in the RV as we get rid of things.

So here we are, heading back to Arizona for the winter even though the camper isn’t completely reorganized yet to accommodate the things we have bought with us but we’re making great progress. This brings back memories of our original game of RV Tetris.

Still lots of things which need a “permanent” storage place. Tetris, V2.

So…

Make three piles…

The start of a new “Pile 2,” in our truck’s back seat. Looking for a Goodwill store along our route…

See you again down the road!

-The Lobsters, once more…on the loose!

That’s a wrap – YEAR ONE!

Things are strange right about now. We’ve come off the road and are back on MDI, long enough to put our house on the market. (Anyone want a house on the Maine Coast, right outside Acadia National Park? Anyone?)

We’ve had a great time this past year and are looking forward to more adventures to come! But it is time for a bit of retrospection and possibly introspection.

How to describe the year? We can put some numbers on it:

  • 359 days, door to door
  • 858 hours of driving
  • 27,851 total miles driven (Kathe has well over 25,000 of our miles!)
  • 20,070 miles with the trailer. It is hard to believe that we roamed over 7,000 miles without the trailer. That was all day trips!
  • 2 wonderful grandchildren for 3 weeks
  • 28 National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Monuments, etc.
  • 30,206 pictures (And you thought we had posted a lot of pics!)

But those don’t really give a flavor of what we have experienced. If you have been following the blog you’ve seen many of the things we’ve seen, but not felt the impact of the openness of the west, nor had the many conversations we’ve had along the way.

The people we have met have been uniformly friendly, helpful, and as willing to share their journey with us as we have with them. Need a tool? Sure! Just put it on the table when you’re done.

Occasionally we’ve run across people who try to get into politics, but it has been very rare. Mostly, conversations have been about travel, enjoying the outdoors, families, rigs, and life experiences.

This country is huge! Having lived our entire lives in the Northeast, we had never known anything but the relatively dense population there. Once across the Mississippi river, you start to be aware that you’re driving for many miles without seeing any structure or other evidence of people.

Our country is beautiful, and varied (witness the 30,206 pictures)! We kept commenting to each other about beautiful scene after beautiful scene as we drove along . We had to be careful not to stop too frequently for photography, or we would have never gotten to our next destination.

When we started, we wondered what it would be like, to be sharing a roughly 300+/- square foot “house” with basically two rooms. We’re happy to report that it hasn’t been a problem at all.

When we started, we said that we’d live full time in our RV for a year before deciding whether to sell our house on Mount Desert Island. The six-month mark came, and we started to make those plans. Now that we’re at the year point and back on the island, we know that it is still the right answer for us.

We’re rattling around in our “large” (compared to the trailer) house, wondering why we ever thought we need so much space—and stuff. As we get ready to sell our house we have to part with things from our past. Most of that seems to not be a problem, but other things, like about 50 years of pictures… well, that is a bit harder. And as most men who have made this transition will tell you… “My tools!” Yeah, I won’t have all my tools! Being brought up with the viewpoint that it was important to have the right tool for whatever it is you’re trying to do, it is really hard to get rid of my tools.

Hard to get rid of in another way is all of our ham radio equipment. There’s just not much of a market for it. While we (especially Kathe) will still be involved in ham radio on the road, it will be done in a different way. Small radios. Small antennas (a bit of an oxymoron, that). There is no room in our 36′ trailer for a ninety foot plus antenna tower, and antennas that measure over 40′ by 20′ on top of the tower. So a lot to get rid of.

We know that we’ll need to come off the road at some point, determined either by health (no news there!) or by a yearning to settle down. But right now, that seems like a long way off. We’ve absolutely loved our past year and are looking forward to continuing for the foreseeable future. We hope that you’ve enjoyed traveling along with us, and that you’ll continue to share our adventure.

We’re still the Lobsters, but, for a while at least, we’re no longer “on the loose.” So we’ll take a break from the blog and pick it up again when we’re back on the road—probably in early October.

See you then!
Al & Kathe

The Best Laid plans—even better!

When we started shopping seriously for an RV and a tow vehicle, we knew we wanted something that could accommodate a couple of our grandchildren traveling with us at a time. We chose an RV with a pull-out sofa bed AND a truck with a crew cab and plenty of legroom for growing kids. Even before purchasing Rhett (RV) and Scarlett (our ruby red F350), we started dreaming about when we might be able to have our two oldest grandsons join us for an extended vacation.

We began planning with Graham and Dean more than a year and a half ago and asked them what national parks they’d like to visit. We knew it would be summer of 2019 and by then they’d be 13-1/2 and 11. They first mentioned wanting to see Arches and Canyonland; we put our heads together and planned an amazing itinerary that would include all of the national parks in Utah as well as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and maybe even the Petrified Forest NP.

Our first park together, Arches NP.

At Christmastime, we enlisted the boys’ help to research each of the parks in Utah—what specific places/hikes within the parks would they like to try? We chose dates and we started making reservations at campgrounds along the way — people warned us over and over about how blistering hot it would be in the summer so we made sure that we’d have full hook-ups (and air conditioning) at every stop.

Canyonlands! Park #2.

To say that these last three weeks have been everything we hoped for would be a tremendous understatement. Graham and Dean have been the most wonderful traveling companions—incredibly helpful, appreciative, curious, flexible, and hilarious! We have had such a fabulous time laughing and living together—we are REALLY going to miss them!

The most recent blog post (authored by Dean) covered our adventures through July 9th. After that, we spent time in Zion National Park, the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest NP (including the Painted Desert). The boys visited Walnut Canyon National Monument with Grandpa on the last day of our adventure.

Al was really excited that we’d be able to spend time at Zion; we had visited it VERY briefly 30 years ago (when our kids were 11 and 7) and Al had really looked forward to returning for a more complete visit.

Zion National Park

In Zion, you’re at the bottom of the canyon, looking up. A nice change!

In contrast to Bryce, Zion was incredibly warm. We topped out at 111 degrees! Our campground was about 14 miles from the entrance to the park. We were able to drive into the community of Springdale where we picked up a free shuttle into the park and transferred onto a free park shuttle. When there are shuttles running, no private cars are allowed into most areas of the park.

We got up early in the morning (before the heat of day) to hike the Riverside Walk up to the start of the Narrows. The shuttles were pretty busy(*) and we noticed many folks with special waterproof shoes and walking sticks. These items are available for rent for the brave souls who would actually walk up through the water-filled canyon–we talked to a couple of women who had walked in to where the water was up to their waist. One of them tripped and fell into the water (but luckily didn’t damage her expensive camera).

(*) Pro tip: The shuttles are very busy with 45 minute to one hour waits at the visitor center even as early as 7:00 AM. If you arrive at the park relatively early, drive up to the first stop, the Museum, and board the shuttle there. You’ll have to stand, but you can get on with no line! I don’t know when the museum parking fills, but there was lots of space there when we went by at a bit past 8:00.

We only went to up to the point where the trail moves into the riverbed. Maybe another time we’ll go up the river a bend or two but even going only this far the canyon shows many different faces.

Photo credit: Graham Simons
Photo credit: Graham Simons

Walking alongside the river was a great time to learn about fast shutter speed photography, to stop the motion of the water!

Photo credit: Graham Simons

The land is home for the wildlife; we are just visitors.

Soooo many squirrels gathering and burying food! We were walking through their pantry. Photo credit: Graham Simons
A mule deer browsing just a few feet off the trail. Is it good that they are completely accustomed to the flow of people? Photo credit: Graham Simons
But this one wanted to get away from all of us… and did!

The valley section containing the canyon and Narrows is in the west side of the park. Our second day in the park, the boys and Al went to the east side, where the geography is very different.

Al: To go between east and west one must go through a long, narrow, twisty tunnel. Our dually pickup Scarlet was too large to go through with traffic flowing both directions, so we had to wait for westbound traffic to be shut down so that we (and many others) could go east. The Ranger’s last words to us before we entered: “Drive in the middle.” Talk about “it goes without saying!”

We saw so many large vehicles waiting in line both directions that I think it likely the tunnel never sees two-way traffic during the summer. But even so, we couldn’t take Rhett through if we wanted to (we didn’t), because it is too tall!

The geography in the east side of the park is very different. It is pretty much wide open, with sloping sandstone hills showing very distinct layers. Graham, Dean, and I had a great time scrambling on the rocks in a few places. We would have done more, but the heat limited our willingness to be out of the truck’s air conditioning for a longer time!

Photo credit: Dean Simons
Photo credit: Graham Simons

There are still peaks on the east side, but overall the area is much more open.

Photo credit: Dean Simons
“Checkerboard Mesa,” named because of the pattern of fractures both horizontally and vertically. Photo credit: Dean Simons

Grand Canyon National Park North Rim

From Zion, we went to the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park. We camped in Jacob Lake about 42 miles north of the park–it was the closest campground with electric hookups (air conditioning is essential to us in Arizona in the summer). A sign near our campground at the start of AZ-67 said “This road is not plowed in the winter and not patrolled at night.” It quickly became apparent why. This is basically a very long driveway to the North Rim; there is virtually nothing for the whole distance.

Nothing, that is, but some cattle and bison, and one gas station selling gas and diesel at obscene prices. A monopoly!

Bison mother and calf Photo credit: Graham Simons
Cattle right next to the road… Photo credit: Graham Simons
…and ON the road!
Proof positive…
Or is this better proof? Thanks for the picture, Graham! Photo credit: Graham Simons

Brother Graham framing up a picture of the canyon…

Photo credit: Dean Simons

We’ll let the grandeur of the canyon speak for itself, as words can’t improve on it.

Photo credit: Graham Simons
Photo credit: Dean Simons
Photo credit: Dean Simons
Photo credit: Dean Simons
Photo credit: Dean Simons
Photo credit: Dean Simons
A little bit of water, and a few million years go into making a canyon. In the center of the picture is the Colorado River, over a mile below us. Photo credit: Graham Simons
Angel’s Window. Notice the railing out at the end of the fin? Yep. We went out there! Photo credit: Graham Simons

Unbelievably, after visiting the Grand Canyon it was time for the last National Park of our time together. But first, a quick stop after driving to our next campground.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

It is not often that you get to be next to a (dead? dormant?) volcano. Sunset Crater Volcano erupted about 900 years ago, so it is relatively new, geologically speaking. The cone is still covered with lava “pebbles.” (Sorry for not knowing the right term; somebody please fill me in.) Nature hasn’t taken the ground back with vegetation. Also, there are huge chunks of lava jumbled about. It is really quite interesting to walk through.

Photo credit: Graham Simons
Many acres of lava rubble Photo credit: Graham Simons

For many years hiking was allowed on the cone. This resulted in paths that were waist deep through the lava pebbles. Restoration efforts were made by shoveling many tons of pebbles back into the tracks. The scars from this are still slightly visible, but we didn’t get any good pictures of that.

The National Monument was created in response to a movie company wanting to dynamite the cone to create a landslide for a scene! The locals said heck no, and pushed for the creation of the Monument. Phew!

There are secondary outlets from the volcano, and their mounds are called “spatter cones.” They are very fragile, and many of them are no longer complete.

A partial spatter cone. Photo credit: Dean Simons

Nature is trying to re-vegetate the land, but it is slow going.

Photo credit: Dean Simons

Sunset Crater Volcano was named because later eruptions expelled a reddish, instead of black, rock, covering the rim and lower slopes with red. This reminded some of a sunset. Or so the story goes!

Photo credit: Graham Simons

Petrified Forest National Park

The calling card of Petrified Forest NP is of course the abundance of petrified wood—huge logs of rock. But it offers so much more: the remains of an ancestral Puebloan village, petroglyphs, the Painted Desert, and more.

Our last entrance sign picture!

Petrified wood is formed as mineral laden water migrates into the cellular structure of the wood. Different materials such as iron oxide cause different colors. It is beautiful!

The pure white is uncontaminated quartz. Photo credit: Graham Simons
Contamination sure looks pretty! Photo credit: Dean Simons
Reds and yellows are from iron oxides contaminating the quartz. Photo credit: Graham Simons

You can still see the tree’s structure preserved in the rock. The park said that there are some logs here where you can count the rings, but we didn’t find them.

Photo credit: Graham Simons
Photo credit: Graham Simons
Photo credit: Dean Simons

All of those pictures were taken walking through a one mile loop behind the visitors’ center. Then we drove through the park stopping at several of the view points.

Part of an 100 room village believed to be from the ancestral Puebloan people. The area was abandoned in the 1200s due to severe drought. Photo credit: Graham Simons
The petroglyphs near the Pueblo village were varied and fascinating to check out. Photo credit: Dean Simons

After Petrified Forest, we had one more stop.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

This was a short stop very near where we were camping, on the morning of our last day together.

Despite heavy looting in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many cliff dwellings still remain in this canyon.

Half way up the opposite canyon wall. How did they get there? From the top or the bottom?
Lots of cliff above, and below.

The “Island Trail” is a loop trail. When we were here several years ago in a February, the trail was only passable part way because of ice. This year the trail is only passable part way due to trail maintenance. Fortunately, it closed the other half, so across two trips Al was able to see the whole trail.

The side that is now open has much more extensive dwellings right along the trail. Some can be entered, some are posted to keep out

The trail goes right alongside these structures.
Many of the structures were dynamited to make it easier to loot them. Sad. Notice the “No Entry” sign.
A still-intact wall with entry… And a No Entry sign.

We have such easy lives. Imagine that you had to carry your food, and water up or down a cliff every day—several hundred feet of nearly sheer rock face, either way. How did they get Amazon deliveries? Oh… Wait.

Then we spent the rest of our last day together getting ready for the trip home and playing games. Then Al had to say “goodbye,” and drive us to the airport. It was a great visit with Graham and Dean, everything we’d hoped for and so much more!

The fourth—ninth. (With an added story time)

On the Fourth of July, we didn’t really do that much. Well, we did go see the new Spider-man movie. (Far From Home) We figured out through “loads of researching” about Moab where the fireworks would be. (In a central area with no trees) We drove up to a organizer/helper person to find where the best spot would be. He told us to “Keep driving up this road, then turn left at ‘Potato Salad Hill'” We told him thanks, then burst out laughing. Potato Salad Hill? But alas, it was a real thing! We found a spot part way up the hill, and set up shop. We set up Grandma’s little Canon G12 that I was using, and Grandpa’s big Canon on tripods. We had the location of the fireworks completely wrong! We thought they were to be to our right, but they ended up on our left! Even though there were high fire precautions, we still saw at least 5. Thankfully, they all got extinguished before they were too big.

A nice fireworks show! Photo credit: Dean Simons. I took all the pictures here unless another name is shown.

On the fifth, Grandma’s shoulder hurt too badly to join us, so we 3 boys went down to the Needles District of Canyonlands NP. On the way to the Needles District, we pulled over to see “Newspaper Rock,” a site of many petroglyphs.

Over 650 designs!

We started at the ‘Cave Spring’ trail, a .6 mile loop going up 2 ladders and going under some mushroom rocks. The mushroom rocks provided some shade from the hot sun.

I’m pretty sure these mushroom rocks won’t taste good!

The ladders were a disappointment. We were expecting some big log ladders. The ‘big’ ladders turned out to be two seven or eight rung ladders.

This is the SMALLER of the two!
We saw loads of lizards!

We did another hike at Pothole Point. It’s a really cool hike, getting its name from the indentations in the rock. After the summer monsoons, the potholes fill up with life. They contain microscopic bacteria that can hibernate during the dry season, then pipe up with life after the monsoons.

Swiss cheese?
As said before: loads of lizards!

On the sixth, we set course for Torrey, UT for Capitol Reef NP. We had gotten a recommendation for Goblin Valley SP. Goblins are small (ish) stone spires that you can climb on. This was the stop I was most excited about. (Thanks Jay Darrin!) It was AWESOME! Graham and I played Hide & Seek among the spires. Grandpa got a $5 permit to fly Butterfly (the drone) around the park, getting some great video.

A young kid’s playground. Also, a perfect place for hide and seek!
Me, climbing on a goblin! Photo credit: Grandma Lobster

On the seventh, we went to Capitol Reef NP. We tried to go to the visitor’s center, but the parking lot was so small, it was filled up even though there were only about 15 cars there. So we went on, hoping to come back later. We saw some old farm equipment, including a prehistoric can of WD-40! Not really, but it was pretty old. I guess the old saying’s true! “All you need in life is a can of WD-40 and a roll of duct tape. If something doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If some moves and it shouldn’t, use the duct tape.” We didn’t see any duct tape though.

Everybody needs some WD-40 in their life.

At an orchard and one room schoolhouse, we did see an elk. It crossed the road, and two others joined it. We went back to the visitor’s center and (finally!) got a spot. The orientation film was in a cool little theater. We had Aunt Lee’s Chicken for dinner. (Yum!)

The only school to ever exist in Fruita, a small town that no longer has any inhabitants.
There were lots of fruit orchards
Some pretty rock
More pretty rock
Even more pretty rock!

On the eighth, as we drove into Bryce Canyon City, almost all the stuff was Ruby’s this, Ruby’s that. (General store, Inn, RV Park, etc.) We found out that Ruby’s real name was Rubin Syrett. Ebeneezer Bryce found the canyon after losing a cow in it. Ebeneezer set up his home at the rim of a canyon full of hoodoos. (Tall spires of rock.) The canyon was named after him. Many people lived near him and his family, but didn’t know that a beautiful canyon was a few miles from their house. Ruby Syrett was one of them. Legend has it that one day, a stranger came knocking on Ruby’s door, asking if he had seen “Bryce’s Canyon.” Ruby said no, so the stranger took him to see it. Ruby was amazed. In 1919, Ruby and his wife, Minnie, set up a tent to host visitors to the canyon. This business grew and grew, until it is what it is now. Ruby’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren still run all the businesses today! (Sorry for the story time!) On the second night, we went to “Ebeneezer’s Barn And Grill,” a live country music show with a buffet. The music was really good, but obnoxiously loud. We snuck out after a couple songs.

Some hoodoos
On either side of the hole, you’ll find newly forming hoodoos.
We even saw some people riding horses!

On the ninth, Grandma’s shoulder hurt too much to join us again. So we three boys headed out to do the Navajo Loop trail. The trail went down, into the hoodoos, providing some great sights! The first part was “Wall Street,” a small canyon with three or four really tall Douglas Firs.

Wall Street

We then went up to Sunrise Point, after hiking about two and a half miles. We went back to the camper, exhausted. A good lunch of I-can’t-remember-what juiced us back up though. We went on a short hike called Mossy Cave. It led to a (Duh!) mossy cave. The info sign said that the icicles that form there over the winter can sometimes last until June!

Moss (In Mossy Cave)

We went back to the first bridge and found a path down to the waterfall at the stream. Grandpa taught us how to “Stop the water” so you can see each individual droplet of water.

Two guys went swimming!

That night, there was an astronomy talk at one of the lodges, and after, there was a telescope demo at the visitor’s center. The ‘Dark Ranger’ who was presenting was really funny. The four telescopes showed: a single point of light that is actually two separate stars, the remains of a ring nebula after it exploded, the moon, and Jupiter with its four biggest moons.

Stay tuned for the last couple parks!

A once in a lifetime experience

Hello! My name is Graham and my brother and I recently flew into Salt Lake City from Rochester via Chicago to start our adventure in Utah. After our flight from Chicago to SLC was delayed two hours, we finally arrived back at the camper with our grandparents.

Waiting for a plane…
We found a plane!
Finally here!

One of the necessities of the camper was that there was room for grandkids to accompany on trips. As the backseat riders in Scarlet, the truck, Dean and I have only been here since Thursday the 27th. We started planning this trip over a year ago, and it is finally happening.

On our first day here we stayed in a KOA in Salt Lake City, only 10 minutes from the airport. We departed the next morning, heading for Price. In Price we discovered that there was more than we had expected there. Price had only been a short stop on the way to Moab. There we found a cool mining museum, where we met a woman who had just come back from our home, Corning! We found a lot of cool artifacts there, and an old caboose and tie-layer.

The next day we went to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, where over 15,000 bones have been found. The majority of the bones were found in a 60×40 foot area. 70% of the bones were Allosaurus. We then went to Buckhorn Wash, a really nice drive through a long canyon. We stopped at two pictograph and petroglyph panels along the way. Pictographs are painted, petroglyphs are carved or chipped into the stone. We then went to the Wedge Overlook, fittingly deemed the ‘Mini Grand Canyon’.

Dino quarry!
15000 bones! The green is Allosaurus.
Rawwwr!
Inside the canyon!
Snake!
What do you think this one is?
Sheep?
Cheese!
‘Mini Grand Canyon’

We departed Price and went to Moab, home of two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands. We headed to Susie’s Branding Iron for lunch, had delicious food, and headed off to our first day at Arches. We stopped about every two minutes to take pictures, which got old towards the end. At the end, as the boys went to investigate the Windows, Grandma went to find parking. She went to the lower loop and discovered an amazing double arch! I went climbing up under the arch and found a gap under a big rock and found a cool thing to crawl through. We went back to the camper and played a fun game, The Mind.

Skillful balancing, mother earth.
Double arch!
Big rock!

The next day, we started off to Dead Horse Point State Park, a park near the top of Canyonlands. The reason it has such an odd name is because the cowboys corralled the horses to the point of the park where they picked the best ones to sell and left the rest trapped at the end. The horses died of thirst, while looking out 2000 feet above the Colorado River. The view there is spectacular and we got some great photos. We also saw a potash evaporation facility and a nice guy told us what it was for. The way to get potash is to drill down to it and put water in the hole, then take the potash water and put it in these large pools to evaporate, leaving only the potash. Potash is mainly used for fertilizer.

Potash pools Photo credit: Graham Simons
Utah Juniper Photo credit: Graham Simons
View from Dead Horse Point Photo credit: Graham Simons
Cool Tree! Photo credit: Graham Simons

We then went for “fro yo” and went to a dinosaur amusement park , where there are giant dinosaurs that I had fun photographing. There was also a series of rooms that had a 3D aquarium. The 8th room was a shark attack, and the floor moved when the shark hit the ‘window’ or screen. We then went to get my FAVORITE food, sushi! We ordered a ‘Boat 2’ not knowing it was served on an actual boat! I also tried Octopus for the first time, and I liked it! We went back to the camper and played some of The Mind.

Watch Out! Photo credit: Graham Simons
Don’t worry, this one is a herbivore. Photo credit: Graham Simons
No one was expecting this!

The next day, we woke up super early and left for Arches, so we could do a hike while it was still relatively cool. We set out with the goal to see Landscape Arch, the widest arch in the world, 305 feet. We also saw two smaller arches, Tunnel and Pinetree. We got to the big arch, and me being me, I wanted to climb up the thin, steep, and possibly dangerous next part of the trail. I made it up pretty quickly, and went back down.

Long way down
The green backpack is me!
Only 11 feet thick at its smallest point.

We came back to Rhett having agreed to do some Ham Radio work. We have been working to get our licenses for a few months. Grandpa and Dean walked down the road a ways while Grandma and I stayed in the camper and Dean and I used their call signs to communicate. It was pretty fun and we learned a lot doing it. We finished off our day by watching Captain Marvel, and Grandma made some delicious bread pudding.

The next day, we left to our first day at Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district. We drove out to some cool viewpoints went on two short hikes, the first of which was a short and easy hike to Mesa Arch. The second hike was a bit more uphill, but was a nice hike to the first overlook for Upheaval Dome. Our personal opinion is that it was formed by a meteorite strike, while the other possibility of its formation is a salt dome. We hiked back down and returned to the RV to plan for the next few days.

That is a road!
But I thought this park was Canyonlands, not Arches… Photo credit: Dean Simons
Meteorite or salt dome? Photo credit: Dean Simons

Finally, we left the camper at about 9:00 to do some star photography at Panorama Point in Arches. We got some cool photos, and towards the end we got the whole viewpoint to ourselves! The people that were already there were mostly there for sunset. We headed back to the camper at about 11 pm.

Milky Way from Panorama Point

The first week was really fun, and I look forward to seeing the other state and national parks in Utah.

Next stop, Capitol Reef and Goblin State Park!

Exploring the United States and Canada by RV