Friday, December 3, 2010

Casa Grande Ruins -- an OLD Civilization!

We traveled to Coolidge, AZ to visit Casa Grande National Monument, which is about 18 miles from our RV park in Casa Grande, AZ. This is the location of a Sonoran Desert farming group of people that dates from around 1000 AD to about 1450.

These people were impressive builders and left behind a number of building ruins, such as these walls, which form the National Monument.

This is the Great House -- also known as Casa Grande -- for which the area is known. This very large structure is actually 4 stories high and has thick, straight walls built out of a clay substance. Dating from 1350, this shows how strong these buildings were. The roof now over the ruin was erected in 1932 and protects it from the weather.

Orinda shows how accurately these buildings were constructed. These buildings would be pretty impressive today -- imagine how amazing these were in 1350.

These people actually farmed the area using canal systems to irrigate the fields. Amazingly, these huge canal fields were dug by hand and managed for centuries.

This sophisticated culture lasted until about 1450 when the city was abandoned. Some folks believe that there were severe floods which destroyed the canals and fields. In any event, they left behind some amazing feats of engineering.

We really enjoyed our visit to Casa Grande Ruins and the desert the surrounded it. Well worth a stop if you are in the area!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Staying at the Palm Creek RV Resort -- NICE!

I have been pretty slack in posting since we arrived at Palm Creek RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ a few weeks ago. Why? Because Rick has been too busy playing golf and enjoying himself! Still, he promises to try and do better in the future.

Here, Rick is ready to take a quick tour around the park on his trusty electric bike! As you can see, our site is nice a wide (50'!) and features the normal Arizona gravel. We also have a wonderful concrete pad that makes a great patio area for sitting.

Palm Creek is a remarkable place and the trees, lush green grass, and water are quite a surprise located in the desert. This is near the entrance of the park and is a delightful area.

The entry gate is staffed 24 hours a day by folks who go out of their way to welcome you. Of course, this also ensures security which is also a nice plus. Turning into the park among the flowers and trees is very relaxing.

After you pass through the gate, you will immediately see the excellent golf course. Rick is standing near the green on #7, which is 195 yards long and offers a sporty challenge when trying score a par 3. The grass was recently re-seeded for winter grass (rye, we think) and is really looking great.

Rick is looking at some of the many flowers that are planted each season near the walks and lakes. Yes, there are several lakes here in the desert!

This walkway connects the sixth hole with number 7 and passes a small stream and group of palm trees. If you have had a tough day so far on the course, this calming walk is very welcome!

Rick has really enjoyed this practice area and putting green near the clubhouse. This is a great place to brush up on chipping and putting in preparation for play. We will be starting group play next week, so Rick is trying to get the rust off his game (and hopes there is something good remaining!).

So far, we have had a great time in Casa Grande and Palm Creek.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Visit to Hoover Dam on it's 75th Anniversary

We had some work done on the motorhome in Las Vegas and while it was in the shop, Cody, Orinda and Rick decided to do a little sightseeing and take in the Hoover Dam. Located just east of Boulder, NV, the dam is about 35 miles from Las Vegas and an easy trip. Once we arrived, we first went through security where they checked our car and then we drove across this mammoth structure! It is hard to get an idea as to the size, but from this vantage point, cars on the top of the dam look very small!
We are sitting on the Lake Mead, or upriver side of the dam in this shot (and were pretty hot too, since it was about 106 degrees!). You can see the white area on the steep lake sides behind us which shows how high the water usually is. We learned that the lake is almost at a record low and is some 140 feet below normal. Still, the lake is several hundred feet deep in places.

The back of the dam shows some of it's great size -- 726' high by 1,244' long and made of poured concrete. The dam is so massive that it is very hard to really describe it's size, but the concrete used in it could build a two lane highway from Seattle, WA to Miami, FL. Plus, when the dam was built in the early 1930's, there was nothing around, so everything had to be built on site, including the concrete plants.

Close to the dam site, and just north of the town of Boulder, is Lake Mead which is twice the size of Rohde Island! Here, you can see a very small part of the lake which shines like a jewell in the dry desert area.

There are several marinas on the lake and this one at Echo Bay berths over 1,500 boats of all sizes. The marinas are floating so that they can be moved as the lake level changes. There is also a very large boat ramp shown above -- look at that -- here are 5 boats being launched at one time and there is plenty of room for more! This boat ramp is huge.

Remember that the lake level fluctuates and that you can just see the marina in the background of this picture. We are STILL on the ramp here and this is where we would launch a boat if the lake was up at the normal level! I would guess we are about 1/2 mile from the water at this point, but the ramp is ready to go when the water finally rises to normal again. Amazing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 547 Squadron Threat Yard at Nellis AF Base -- WOW!

We traveled to Las Vegas, NV to visit our son, George, who, as a Captain in the Air Force, is attending a training class at Nellis Air Force Base in the area.

One of the amazing things at Nellis is the Threat Yard -- also known as the Petting Zoo -- which contains weapons systems from eastern block countries. This is a "hands-on" museum where you can actually touch and examine potential enemy's weapons systems. Here, George and Rick check out AK 47 variants.

This Mig 23 was available for Rick to "try on". The systems in this recent fighter while effective, were very crude by comparison with our systems. It was amazing to actually sit in the cockpit where Russian pilots sat not many years before.

Orinda thought this was great -- but likely because she could spend some time with her son!

This Gillie suit was just her size -- although I do not think she was really excited about wearing it.

George also tried on a couple fighters for size. This one seemed to fit just fine.

The Petting Zoo is not limited to just aircraft. Many tanks and armored vehicles are included. I believe this was a T-33 Soviet Tank. While impressive, we were very glad we did not have to ride in it -- very primitive.

This T-80 is a recent addition and was used in the Iraq conflict. While much improved over the T-34, we decided that we prefer the Air Force over the ground forces!

This is the famous Russian Hind helicopter and was huge! Used extensively by the Russians, this was a remarkable chopper. Still, the systems were very crude, but effective. Rick is ready to lift off and ready to go!

George was shocked at the small confines in this armored personnel carrier which was built by the Russians. Imagine riding with a large number of soldiers carrying full gear and weapons in this one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cedar Breaks National Monument - A HIGH Mountain Experience!

We took another side trip about 20 miles outside of Cedar City, UT to the Cedar Breaks National Monument. Frankly, we did not know what to expect, but decided to check it out -- and we were very pleasantly surprised!

The Breaks are a large area of eroded land that is in amazing canyons, crevasses and plateaus. Add this to the remarkable coloring and you have a spectacular view.

The breaks are at an altitude of over 10,000 feet as you can see on the GPS. This elevation allowed a dramatic change in weather -- we left Cedar City (it is at about 5,800') in sun and warm temperatures. At the breaks, we experienced sun -- and sleet! Wow -- big difference.

This is an amazing sight to see and we spent a couple of interesting hours looking this area over.

This picture was taken from the Visitor Center (they had the wood stove burning for heat -- and it felt good!) . The canyon must be a couple thousand feet deep and was filled with interesting shapes resulting from erosion.

Orinda is checking out the Visitor Center observation area and you can get an idea as to the large area that the breaks covers. She doesn't look cold, but she is pretty frozen about now!

Rick is much better prepared for the weather -- I guess he should offer the jacket to Orinda (he did!), but she wanted to return to the car.

Here is another area of the breaks. Notice the spire-shaped areas in the bottom of the canyons which were hundreds of feet high.

Rick is enjoying the sudden sun and warmth that followed. The weather literally changed every couple minutes here and was a very interesting experience. This smaller National Monument is a great place to visit and we are very happy we took it in!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park -- Outstanding!

We spent the night in Cedar City, Utah with the intention to see the wonders of Zion National Park and surrounding areas. One of the lesser traveled areas of Zion Park (the main body of the park attracts over 3 million folks a year!) is the Kolob Canyon area which is located in the northern zone of the park.

As soon as we entered the park, Rick saw this little rascal crossing the road. Wow -- a huge tarantula spider! We learned that these are rather common in the park, but it sure was impressive to us to see this fellow up close!

This area of Zion National Park is amazing with one spectacular view after another. The road to the summit in this section is only six miles long, but we spent over two hours enjoying the incredible sights.

The rock formations were remarkable and the lighting on each formation was very interesting today since there were alternating clouds and sun.

Here are the intrepid explorers -- Cody and Orinda at one of the many turn offs. As you can see, there were relatively few folks sharing the visitas with us. We learned from one couple that they could not even find a place to park int he main area of Zion. Glad we explored this area.

The top of these rock formations support trees and grass -- at 8,000' in elevation. Looks like fields in the sky.

You can see the road to the left of this shot and it is typical of the scenery we saw around every turn. The colors, mostly a deep red, were unique and very beautiful.

This shot shows the many different layers of rock in many different formations. It was hard to focus on only one area with the many different views available.

Finally, Rick found another tarantula next to the car. We wondered if they liked to hunt on the road, but whatever the reason, they were impressive!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pierre, SD and on to Wyoming's Independence Rock

We are back on the road and left Sioux Falls to go to Pierre, SD. We stayed at the City RV Park which is beautifully located right on the Missouri River, which you can see in the background. The sites offer 50 amp electric connections and a dump station for $15 a night. Plus, it is right in town, so is very convenient.

We did some exploring and left Cody in the coach with the A/C on. I guess Cody was a bit bored and his excellent nose found a brand new bag of dog food! Obviously, Cody figured this must be for him, so he helped himself as the picture shows. No more dinner for him that night!

We left Pierre and headed west on I-90, stopping at this rest area near Wall, SD. We were delighted with the excellent weather -- late Sept. is a great time to be in the Dakotas with warm days and cool nights being the norm.

Passing Spearfish, SD, we quickly came to the Wyoming state line. Western SD and Wyoming really illustrates the real west and we always enjoy the interesting terrain and uncrowded roads. Often, we seem to see more pronghorn antelope than people.

Wyoming was the crossroads for several old West trails, including the Bozeman, Mormon, and Oregon trails. Amazingly, over 500,000 people traveled west over these trails in wagons and on foot during the mid 1800's. One key waypoint was Independence Rock where people figured they were about half way to their destination.

Visible for miles around, Independence Rock was covered by names carved into the rock by travelers. Over the years, most of these have vanished due to erosion, but there are still a few that are visible.

You can just make out the carvings above. According to period literature, names were thick on the rock as travelers left their names and initials there for subsequent travelers or posterity. It really makes you think about the past when you see such reminders.

Here is a classic prairie schooner, or wagon. Imagine traveling 15 miles a day (on a good day) over the hot, dusty plains. We decided that our motorhome is one heck of an advance!

This is the typical terrain of Wyoming and still looks the same as it did hundreds of years ago. The settlers must have been made of "stern stuff" to venture over these difficult surroundings in search of a better life.