Friday, February 24, 2023

A Visit to the Center of the World!

Still in Yuma...Site:134    Highs: Low 60's   Lows: high 30's to low 40's

When we heard a winter storm was going to sock most of the northern US this week, we consulted all our 3-4 of our weather apps (they differ wildly in AZ, we're not sure why), as we were scheduled to leave this week. We saw that our last Cottonwood, AZ visit-- near Sedona was going to get 6" of snow, and the temps at night were going to be in the low twenties. That's even too cold for Sparky and too risky to travel through the high winds and bad weather in the mountains to get there. Besides that, in the next couple of days, a wild windy weather pattern was calling for 50-60 mph in Cottonwood, and being situated near the top of the park was a concern, because the the winds sweeping across the mountains and the mesa table top at the park where we were supposed to be, meant significant swaying and movement of the RV.  So-o-o-o, we decided to add another week to our Yuma stay, and skip Cottonwood as hiking would be out of the question as well with the snow in Sedona and higher elevations. Phooey! But---there's always next year. Sparky wants to hike the Boynton Canyon's on her bucket list. But at 6.1 miles, this is a significantly difficult hike for someone her age, so we'll see. (SPARKY said that? asks an incredulous Eldo.) Yep, she does have her limitations and is starting to accept that.  (THUMP!) That's Eldo falling on the floor in shock. 

This part of the Boynton Canyon hike is called Subway Cave and is the most difficult part of the hike to get there. There are many other beautiful hikes in Sedona, so if this one is out of reach, she will try for another. BUT--maybe her adventurous brother, Charlie, would be up for this hike--he did the Ironman at age 65 this year!

Subway Cave
So our remaining time in AZ was spent visiting friends the first day we got here, Denise and Shane Selby, who were leaving the next day. We checked out an interesting outdoor museum called the Museum of History in Granite at the Center of the World, checked out some of the beautiful art installations all over Yuma, and met with more RVing friends at the end of our stay in Yuma. We met them in Maine two summers ago. George and Lynn Venezia spend a long period of time here in Yuma for the winter so it was great to see them again!

The Museum of History in Granite is an outdoor museum of  granite panels made from Missouri red granite located just over the California border in the very small town of Felicity, CA, exit 164 off of I-8. Not only is the cool granite installation of the world's history here, but also the "official center of the world" as proclaimed by Imperial County, CA, and Jacques-Andre Istel-the founder-and his former native country of France. 

standing on the center of the world!
The center of the world can be anywhere since our world is spherical, but it was fun to stand on the "official" spot, get your photo taken and receive a certificate that says you visited the pyramid and stood at the "official center of the world". Then you head out to the courtyard of monuments. A great guide, Ms. Baptiste, was very informative and enthusiastic, and filled Sparky in on some interesting facts about the founder and his compound. 
The pyramid with the sweet center spot

Jacques has a great background story. He and his family escaped the Nazis and landed in New York. From there, Jacques grew up and traveled the country, becoming a young successful entrepreneur and avid parachutist. He is renowned as the "father of American skydiving". He invented safer ways to jump and safety mechanisms for the chute and started his own parachuting company. He served in the US Marines during the Korean War. At some point, he chose the Sonoran Desert location between Yuma and San Diego to start a little town called Felicity, population 2, himself and his wife. He had a vision. He was going to perpetuate history with a series of triangular granite monuments and attract attention to his vision by proclaiming his place "The Center of the World". With his successful background and perseverance, he almost singlehandedly built this compound into the weird and unusual tourist attraction it is today. 

There are 20 triangular slabs of granite, with 700+ professionally engraved panels, with over 1,000 illustrations that are hand etched and each monument is over 100 feet long. They are arranged in a compass rose with a multilingual Rosetta Stone in the center.  A great guide at the museum said that the etchings are done by a single artist who has been with Istel for over 30 years, and the lettering is done by hand by another single artist. After etchings, the stone is painted or sort of white washed, to make the lettering and illustrations "pop". The painting has to be redone after so many years due to the relentless desert sun.

The choices of what is engraved on them, the bits of history were all chosen by Monsieur Istel. He researched extensively and chose some odd ones along with the basics, starting with the "Big Bang" and went from there, combining human accomplishments and traditional history with a bit of silliness and oddball facts. He also included some French history--the Foreign Legion and the history of French aviation. He's got Vincent Van Gogh's "The Starry Night", Sandra Day O'Connor, first woman on the Supreme Court, the first game of polo, the origin of the hamburger, and on the American History monument, he has the safety pin listed FIRST--before the airplane and the computer. George Washington is remembered for his taste in beer! Culture is almost as important as factual dates and historical events.

There is a quote from Julia Childs, famous chef--"If you are afraid of butter, use cream." Lest you think this is all just silly historical nonsense, it is not. There is an amazing progression of important information, facts, and valuable history, truly a treasure trove for future millennium.

from the church doorway

On the site is also a church high up on a manmade trapezoidal hill that is 35 feet high. It's a beautiful little church. Remarkable, because Jacques was not religious, and his mother was Jewish. He doesn't really know why he built the church, he just thought it was needed. 
inside the chapel

At the top of the church hill, you can see the layout of the compound below.

There is a piece of French culture sculpture there, too. A staircase that leads to nowhere. It's from the Eiffel Tower, a set of original iron steps! Over time the heavy iron steps caused the tower to sway, so they were replaced. The original steps were cut into 20 portions, auctioned off and Mr. Istel purchased a portion and placed it at Felicity. 

There is a Maze of Honor separate from the monuments. It's a granite walkable labyrinth that you can put your own historical remembrance with an illustration and backstory on a 12" X 12" piece of black granite for the cost of 1,000 dollars, but it will be there for eternity or somewhere close to it.

You have to remember that Jacques Istel is an amateur historian, but the immensity of this project leaves you with an admiration of his achievement and his vision. Some people might call that a bit of eccentricity, but who knows? Several thousand years from now, this place will still be standing and a glimpse into what passed before in a condensed version, will be there for someone to ponder and wonder--a"modern" day time capsule.

We highly recommend visiting this cool place. It's a little bit weird, a little bit touristy, but a whole lot of interesting to view one man's vision. It makes you wonder....What would you have included? What was left out and why? Why did he pick this event and not that? 

See you down the last stop in Yuma to see some terrific art and a trip to the Prison Brewery and the famous Lutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Yuma Arizona

 Foothills Village RV Park. Site: 131 back in   Highs: 60's, lows: low 40's  Site: 131  AT&T very good (LTE), T-Mobile excellent--133 download, upload 79.5

Friday morning dawned cold and sunny. It was 25 degrees and after pulling in all slides and disconnecting from power, we were to have our truck hitched up to the fifth wheel ready to pull out at 8:00 AM  when the mobile repair tech (Currier Masters) would arrive to replace the front jacks. We were asked to hitch up to take the weight off the rig so he could take each jack and motor out and put the new ones in.

Just one problem. One of the jack motor's was on its last legs and it takes both front jack motors to raise the hitch up to go onto the truck. The left jack motor actually breathed its last breath and quit right then--nada, zip, zilch. The hitch was about three inches too low. No way to get the hitch up onto the truck without damaging it. 

Even though our rig is called a 5th wheel or a 5er, the part inside the bed of the truck is also called a fifth wheel, and that is what the hitch on the RV slides into when we are getting ready to pull out of a campground. It works to connect the truck to the RV. The contraption on the bottom photo is the "fifth wheel". When you are lined up correctly, (Eldo uses a variety of "sightings" to line himself up along with Sparky's recommendations of "a little more to the left", or "a little more to the right", a very precise measurement). (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA)....Eldy is rolling on the floor laughing. That narrow slot in the contraption in the bottom photo is where the round hitch pin slides up, onto and into the slot till it "clanks". Then you know you are hitched up along with a visual confirmation that it's locked in place.
the hitch pin that slides into the truck
The fifth wheel slot that accepts the hitch pin

Currier Masters, John Currier, to the rescue. He used a 3/8 socket wrench to crank up the hitch high enough to slide on and we backed up and locked in. He went to work and about two and half hours later, new jacks were on our rig! Bright, shiny and no road dirt and oil. At this point, we still can't use our automatic leveling system. When you replace the jacks, you have to recalibrate the whole leveling system. Because the drive was delayed this morning getting to Yuma, we needed to get rolling. We will wait a little bit till we have more time to set up and follow the recalibration directions using the control panel. Until then, Eldy has gotten quite good at leveling the coach manually. He uses the Lippert app called One Control. He stands outside and the app controls each jack, the lighting system, the awnings and more. It's pretty cool! He also uses a regular level to check for tilt and horizontal leveling, AND--the most tech advanced tip of all--the half bath bathroom door which is in the center of the coach. He opens it and if it stays open halfway and doesn't swing in or out, we're good!

We made it to Yuma to Foothills Village RV park. This is a nice little park and more for RVs than park models like many Encore parks are. All the sites are back ins. We would say that the majority of Encore parks cater to long term residents and require 55 and older, so usually there are a ton of annual residents and many many park models. (Park models are like tiny homes, single wide house trailers.) Also, the sites are usually extremely tight as they are older parks and were designed for smaller trailers. The sites are narrow, but not as close to your neighbors as they sometimes can be. Although the sites are narrow, they are long enough to put a 42 footer and your tow vehicle in the same site. The gentleman that guided us in got us SUPER close to the electrical post, but we had to fit between the concrete cement pad and the electrical post so that's the way it is. It's about 4 inches or less to touch the post.
After a week here, and checking the weather heading back into Cottonwood, the temperatures are so much colder in Cottonwood, we decided to extend our stay another week here in Yuma. Unfortunately, somebody was coming in to take our spot the day we were supposed to leave, so we had to switch to a 30 amp spot. The angles for the back in's are a little more challenging with a big shrub hedge in front of you, a palm tree immediately to the side of the site, and you have to back in right next to the concrete pad in order not to infringe on the neighboring site. It took a lot of backing up and forth, which wasn't working, and finally, just a drive "around the block" and pull thru from an empty site to get ourselves situated. Close.
Families are welcome here and Sparky enjoys seeing the kids play and sometimes even chatting with them. This week she met Winnie, Winston, and Willow and has been having nice conversations with them. Super well behaved and polite little youngsters. We are here for a week, and our type of membership means no out of pocket cost, it's free for this particular park. They have a very small swimming pool, a hot tub, laundry facilities, and shopping is close by. 
There are cute little cabanas at the end of each row that are available for anybody to sit in the shade, read a book, or drink a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the next person's site is immediately behind the cabana, so it's not very private as their window looks right out on the little covered patio site.

site #131
There is a LOT of road noise, from interstate 8 and the frontage road. But Sparky doesn't mind as she wears ear plugs at night. Guess why? (Hey, now....cautions Eldo.) 

What will we do while we are here? Well, last year, Sparky climbed a mountain with the most arduous, steep elevation change, over 1200 feet. Because her sciatica has gotten worse, that might not happen this week. Phooey! It's a great cardio buster for sure! She really wanted to do it again, maybe with the help of a lot of Aleve or Tylenol.  NOTE: After going back and reading last year's blog about Telegraph Pass, Sparky decided not this time. It took over 5 hours last year, was over 5 miles, and it was grueling. You can read more about that hike and Yuma here: 
                                        A Grueling Hike

There is a bike trail down near the Yuma Territorial Prison. The prison is a great tourist stop when you are in town. We visited last year and you can read about that here: Yuma Territorial Prison The historical Yuma Prison has been rated the "best haunted destination in the US" by USA Today.

You can pick up the paved bike trail at West Wetlands Park, in northwest Yuma, about 12 miles from the RV park. It is located along the Colorado River within the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area and you can ride to the East Wetlands and back, about 4 miles each way, from the West Wetlands Park to the East Wetlands Park, which is developing a nice park at the end of that section. It's a nice short ride with a pretty starting point at the family park. 
West Wetlands Park

Shortly after leaving the family park, you see this bike sculpture. Sparky always likes to see it, because she has a brother named Charlie.

There's not much to see after that except the pretty park in the center of town, very close to the prison. Once you get out of the city park, it's riding along a canal on one side and the wetlands on the other, with the Gila Mountains in the distance.

There is a cool little ramada on the way out of the East Wetlands Park. A ramada is a shady place, a temporary shelter with a roof but no walls, traditionally built with native local materials for shade on a hot day. It had some branches across it like you weren't supposed to go inside it, but it was still possible to see what a pretty view was out in the distance, of the marshes and mountains.
Sparky took a little side route along the main bike trail and saw beautiful broccoli fields growing. Temperatures are much cooler here in the southwest, about ten degrees below normal right now, so there is more green and less brown in the areas in Arizona we've visited lately. Did you know that 90% of the nation's leafy greens comes from Arizona, specifically Yuma County. Wow! Amazing considering everywhere you look is desert, but then there are irrigation fields of green, green, and more green. It's really beautiful against the mountains backdrop and the beautiful blue skies. It's sunny most of the time here, 91% of the year! This would be a great place for someone with seasonal affective disorder! 

There are other bike rides and mapped out routes, but they are on city streets and side streets. You can always ride around the RV park, too, for the safest ride! Sparky was warned by two different people just outside a couple of old RV parks to be careful where she rode, probably because they were not in the best areas of town. All righty, then. She will.

Martha's Date Farm
You can visit Martha's Garden and date farm. We did.  It's a very low key operation as far as entertaining visitors. They have more important work to do! The visitor's center is a lean machine. It's large but open areas with a small snack area and some shelves filled with lots of different Medjool date packages--be sure to try a date shake! Medjool dates were imported to this country from Morocco in the 1940's. You can buy boxes of dates and other goodies or have them shipped, and you can take a tour if you sign up on the internet. Trying to connect with them directly by phone can be a problem due to service in the area. Tours are offered twice a day and the price is 10.00. OR--you can watch a video at the visitor center/store and learn a LOT about the date growing and harvesting process. It's pretty interesting! 

Dates have the highest polyphenols among dried fruits and have a low glycemic index for fruit lovers who struggle with blood sugar. Martha's Date Farm grows their dates organically, use no preservatives of course, and the dates are not processed. Dates grow on palms, Sparky did not know that! (Eldo will refrain from saying there are a LOT of things she doesn't know, but she will be the first to admit that, haha.) 

Medjool date palms
The process of growing and harvesting dates is a very labor intensive one, and it's all done by hand here in Yuma. The growing season is six months spring through summer. It takes about 7-10 years for a date palm to fully mature and they can produce up to 300 pounds of dates. 

There are male and female palms. The males don't produce fruit. One male date palm can pollinate 50 female palms. Hmmmmm.....Letting nature do the pollinating is too unreliable with the wind, so it's done by hand. The harvesting is August thru October and several yields result in big, beautiful dates. Dates can be frozen and thawed repeatedly with no harm done to the fruit, just in case you want the best dates in the world shipped to you from Yuma, AZ and you want to save them for the holidays.

  Sparky and Charlie
Besides a visit to the date farm, Sparky visited her brother in the beautiful city of La Quinta, CA. It was a long drive each way, but well worth it and the closes she will be to her youngest brother for a long time. We had a great visit and a great lunch, and Charlie took us for a tour around the area, visiting a nice RV park, and some areas where Charlie sells homes. We also saw the area where the Kardashians have a home, along with Tim Cook, the Apple CEO. The city of La Quinta has an amazing backdrop of mountains and so much beautiful greenery with amazing landscaping, along with cool shops and eateries. And of course, all kinds of amazing, nationally known golf courses. (Sigh)...That's Eldo missing his golf a bit.)

Charlie and Eldy
As far as things to do in Yuma, if nature is your thing, there are two national wildlife refuges in the area, the Kofa and the Imperial. The Imperial refuge has 40 miles of sand dunes where they filmed "Star Wars Episode V: Return of the Jedi", "Spaceballs", and more movies. The Colorado River offers plenty of boating and rafting/floating opportunities.

Imperial Sand Dunes

If off roading is your thing, there is the Arizona Peace Trail, over 750 miles of thrills. If history is your thing, visit the territorial prison, the Colorado River State Historical Park, the Castle Dome Mine Museum, or the Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World, a quirky tourist attraction outside of Yuma. The granite museum is an outdoor exhibit with massive monuments crafted from Missouri red granite. And of course, there is a lot of Native American history here as well, with the Cocopah--Keepers of the River and the Quechuan--Those Who Descended- having settled the area since ancient times. If art and culture are your thing, there are colorful murals and sculptures all over Yuma's historical downtown district and public art galleries at Arizona Western College.

There are plenty of great eating spots, too! Sparky is always looking for those, haha, because she really hates to cook. We found Mr. Fish & Chips right at the corner lot at the edge of our RV park. It's a tiny place with terrific seafood and jammed every afternoon from about 4:00 on. 

Of course, you've got great Mexican restaurants all over the place. And speaking of Mexico, you can cross over to Mexico just ten miles away, at Los Algodones, to get REAL Mexican food, or great dental care and medications at a fraction of the cost in the US. It's a non-complicated process to go over and back and thousands of people do that every year to save money on prescriptions and dental work. We went to Mexico a couple of years ago, crossing the border at Nuevo Progreso. It was a little depressing at how touristy and economically depressed the area was at that location, truly not a good indicator of the true beauty and culture of Mexico. 

That being said, we have a few more days to enjoy Yuma, then we will head back to Cottonwood, cold or not, for two more weeks, because Sparky's tooth is still not ok, then we leave Arizona and start heading across the southeast through Texas and onwards. We're already planning our summer itinerary, and it looks like we will be weathering the heat in the midwest, PA and NY, then the upper peninsula of Michigan! See you down the road.... Eldy and Jeannie

Our Time in Cottonwood Brief, but Busy!

Cottonwood, AZ.  Highs: high 50's to low 60's   Lows: high 20's to low 30's.  Site: M-16. AT&T connectivity very good with hot spots and T-Mobile Mifi

We are only in Cottonwood for two weeks this visit, but we've managed to keep quite busy. We are still waiting for our jacks to come in and be replaced. Sparky, despite getting a new crown in record time, is still having aching somewhere in the general vicinity of the crown--uh-oh! That could be just the tooth still adjusting or another one squawking, who knows. By the way, if you need any dental care in the area, Sparky recommends Peak Family Dental Care in Cottonwood. There are three locations for this dentistry practice. Although the office was super small and parking was at a premium, Sparky received EXCELLENT care for her broken tooth. And if she should have go back to see what else is going on with her teeth, she will definitely head back there.

porcelain cube ready to be cut

After carving
After being filed down, it was replaced with a porcelain crown, made with the latest CAD imagery and machinery, carved from a porcelain cube while she waited. The machine was like a dual Dremel tool, carving and spinning and spraying the cube while it was being carved. Then the little purple tooth capsule was popped into a kiln and baked for about 15 minutes at about 2800 degrees and turned into the tooth enamel color. It was fascinating to watch! Dr. Shanahan was one of the first several hundred in the nation to get the "carving" machine and has been doing crowns this way for many years.

She was in and out in less than 4 hours, completely done.

So, above and beyond dental and jacks, there are a TON of things to do here in the area and we have done some. We are saving Sedona activities and hiking for our next three week stay, our last, coming up after a week in Yuma. Here is just a sample of things to do while staying at Thousand Trails Verde Valley:

Visit the Alcantara Winery just around the corner from the RV park. It's part of the Verde Valley Wine Trail.  Visit Red Rock State Park, Slide Rock State Park (in Sedona) and Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Sparky's favorite. Near Dead Horse Ranch is Blazin' M Ranch known for their chuckwagon dinners and Wild West shows. They are also adding Conestoga wagon units for "glamping". Check out Sedona Wetlands, about a mile outside of Sedona. Visit Jerome, an old mining town with supposedly lots of haunted places. Drive the scenic route over Mingus Mountain from Jerome to Prescott. It's a little scary two lane highway 89A snaking through mountain canyons and having steep drop-offs.  You DON'T want to take an RV of any length on this drive! You will attain an elevation of over 6,00 feet before winding back down. While at more calming lower elevations, visit Tuzigoot National Monument (use your senior pass) and Montezuma's Castle. Visit the Arizona Copper Museum in Clarkdale, nearby. Be sure to read Sparky's two posts about the copper museum, it was that great!

Hotel Connor 1898
One day this week, we headed to the Haunted Hamburger joint up in Jerome. Jerome became a deserted ghost town in 1953 after gold and copper dwindled in the mountains. People rallied to save Jerome, preserved and restored it and billed it as the largest ghost city in America. Many of the original buildings line the streets. There is Jerome State Park nearby too, if you should choose to visit, with a mining museum in the historic Douglas Mansion, and the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town situated nearby as you come out of Jerome and head back to Cottonwood.

Jerome is a town nestled into the side of a mountain. It's steep and windy to get up there. Parking is at a premium on twisted narrow streets in Jerome if you have a big truck like ours. We found a big parking lot up on a hill behind the fire station. It even has spots for RVs, but we don't recommend driving anything bigger than a small travel trailer up to Jerome. There are extremely tight turns around town and the roads are super steep. There are cute shops there but we couldn't explore the town because of limited parking. It's very touristy, of course. The Haunted Hamburger is part of the Haunted Group, and ghost tours are big in this town. Hard to tell whether there really have been any hauntings or ghostly apparitions seen, but you just have to go and experience things for yourself if you believe in that sort of stuff. There are photos all over the walls that show weird shadowy images, some photographed from previous owners and supposedly, things have flown off shelves before. During renovations, doors opened and shut on their own, and other weird things happened. Locals provided even more ghostly lore and the restaurant became a "thing"!

We had good burgers and outstanding onion rings at the Haunted Hamburger, which sits on a cliffside overlooking the Verde Valley and the San Francisco Peaks for fantastic views. They had cool tee shirts for sale. 

Eldy tried to pull a fast one on Sparky. "Did you feel that guy just brush across your shoulder? " Wha-a-a-a-t???" "Yeah, a guy just went by you, and touched your shoulder as he passed."  "What guy? There isn't any guy nearby!" Sparky whipped around, there was no one. Haha, very funny, Eldo.

The scenic drive from Jerome across Mingus Mountain was outstanding and just a tad bit scary in a big dually truck. It is also called the Mingus Mountain Scenic Road. Steep drop offs and winding sharp curves with some 11% maximum grade points make the 19 mile drive thrilling! We loved the drive the day we took it.

We are seeing some birds in the RV park--mountain bluebirds and hummers. The bluebirds seem to hang out more in the RC track, back trails and bush area than elsewhere in the park.

Outside the park, over at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, some more house finches, an evening grosbeak, a Cassin's finch, goldfinches and a bridled titmouse. Is the plural titmice? Sparky sees several of them every time. it's wonderful that the Audubon Society has feeder stations at this state park and supplies them constantly so we can enjoy the beauty of the many different birds that come to feed.

Cassin's finch and lesser goldfinch

bridled titmouse
Sparky visited the Copper Museum in Clarkdale...that was so amazing it's a complete separate, two part blog and you can read about it if you missed it.

With one day left, Sparky got in a short hike along the Jail Trail in Cottonwood. It's a short loop trail, about 1.6 miles and is rocky and uneven in spots, but pretty level, making it an easy trail to walk. It is NOT wheelchair accessible and veers off in different directions if you are not watching the signs. Parts of it are through a LOT of dead, fallen big cottonwood trees and tree debris, parts of it are along the beautiful Verde River. Huge white barked, dormant Fremont cottonwood trees back up against the sky along the river....It's not a very scenic hike at all, you could probably find better ones for sure, especially over at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, but the weather was just perfect for hiking, so it was still enjoyable. Now if Sparky could just get her sciatica under control, it would be a LOT more enjoyable.

We are preparing to head to Yuma. Today is pack up, stow all loose, flying around stuff, secure the items in the fridge, etc. (The last time we drove over very bad roads, Sparky forgot to stow the egg carton securely--in a refrigerator bin) and we had unintentional scrambled eggs all over the kitchen slide floor. Yuck!) The jacks are supposed to be repaired the day we have to leave. We will pull our slides in, hitch up the truck and Currier Masters RV Repair is coming out to replace both front landing jacks at 8:00 sharp. Fingers crossed that this will take care of the automated leveling system which has not worked in quite awhile....

See you in Yuma, Arizona!