Ba Bam

The peace of morning and a first coffee is shattered with the distinct double crack and earth-shaking clatter of a sonic boom. It is soon followed by another. High overhead jet fighters hone their deadly skills. They are too high to be seen but the eternal thunder of their presence is oppressive. I am on the Southern edge of the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range. The military actually posts schedules and provides passes for folks who want to sit in bleachers and watch as ground assault aircraft practice “Ordinance delivery.” Bizarrely the range is adjacent to the Cabeza Prieta National wildlife sanctuary. Run rabbit, run.

The desert weather has been wet and windy and cold. This is another bleak Sonoran morning. I finally get to know an acquaintance of over thirty-five years and it is grand to find a kindred spirit. The day speeds by. I have been introduced to the amazing area around this small Southern Arizonan community of Ajo. My old van has been repaired and I am very glad I did not attempt the job myself on the side of the road. I will begin meandering northward in the morning. I am grateful for the camaraderie and the rest my stop here has provided. This place is fantastic and I want to return soon. Hostile as the desert may be, it has seduced me.

It is nearing midnight as I start this blog after editing another day’s batch of photos. Outside, nearby, coyotes yip and howl. I will sleep well.

Fred’s Mexican roadside repairs. I was very grateful for the comforting light of the sign for a night’s stop. Check out Barb’s website, this place does great things.

I drove in to say thank you.

This place shelters hundreds of dogs. It is a very small dent in dealing with Mexico’s stray dog problem, but it offers hope and humanity. The dark female on the right made it very clear she’d like me to take her with me. Heart rending!

Even in the bleak damp dawn of that morning, desert flowers bloomed beautifully.

A grey, cold morning in the Sonora Desert while it was snowing at home on Vancouver Island. It was hard to photograph anything without plastic trash showing everywhere, a very sad problem throughout all of Mexico and I can suggest no solutions other than the obvious.

A Sagauro cactus corpse, bizzarely mummified. Yep, that’s my little old van in the distance, dwarfed by the enormity of the desert.

And then the sun began to emerge.

Early springtime. I am told that April and May are stunning.

I find the desert impossible to photograph and convey the sense of grandeur, wonder and amazing detail all at once. One needs to stay in a single place for at least several days, observing the scene with the ever-changing light. I really want to stay for months.

Everywhere one looks there is beauty both stark and subtle.

President’s Wig? No. It is firmly rooted.

Well, it’s a start. Mexico is definitely becoming more environmentally aware. Now do something about all the plastic trash!

One of the wonders to me is the thousands of half-vast projects never completed throughout Mexico. This building is typical of someone’s abandoned ambition. It is clearly unfinished and unused.

Crossing the border from Sonoyta Mexico to Lukeville Arizona. No photos please! Shut off cell phones! I drove northward toward Ajo with a grinding, shuddering driveline, my third serious mechanical issue of the trip. … Ba Bam part 2

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

… Stephan Covey

Bouncing Back

San Carlos Harbour. Some call this place Tucson South where a vulgar display of wealth flies in the face of Mexican reality. But this place also has a Mexican charm.

Ya can’t bounce back til ya’ve hit bottom.” That comes to mind from deep in the archives of my mental hard drive as I passed along a hard rive of another sort. I left Nogales in the dark yesterday morning, totally exhausted after yet another sleepless night. Entering Nogales Mexico is a plunge into hell. A young lady, shivering inside her non-offical parka, gave my van a brief inspection and waved me on. Que? OK?. I entered a scene which was part Blade-Runner, Quest For Fire and any apocalyptic film of your choice. Crooked cobbled winding streets poorly lit, except for the hi-beams of vehicles hurtling in all directions, pedestrians wandering every which way, vendors already setting up their market trucks along the curbs, rare and nebulous road signs posted just at the junctions. Add all the mad Max’s in the world trying to block you. Holy shit! I have driven in Mexico and loved it, (Well mostly) but yesterday seemed incredibly bizarre. Out on the open road finally, the signage is variably good, with long sections of road repairs, then miles later, more “deviacion.” The cuotas, or toll booths, are presently unmanned by government employees but are attended by folks begging money and demanding to know where you are going. Eventually you see a sign indicating that you are, perhaps, on the correct route. Then you hit a Tope, one of Mexico’s infamous speed bumps.

The small city of Hermosillo, was a repeat of Nogales. Even in daylight I hate the gauntlet that is this dreadful place. At nearly every stoplight a gang of window-washers assails your vehicle, jumping all over it in their efforts to clean the glass and extort a small ransom. My shouted No’s are ignored. They banged on all windows with their demands and tried to take the bicycle off the back of the van. You’re helpless, inclined to leap out in confrontation, but you know of course, that’s dangerously foolish, so you sit inside, cursing and seething at your entrapment while a gentle voice on your shoulder whispers that “This is Mexico, relax, this shall pass, these kids are just trying to help support their family.” I do get it, but a simple permission and a gracious acceptance of “No” would completely improve the business model of these junior extortionists. When driving through a congested town or city, it is utterly wise to keep your doors locked and your windows closed. I’ve decided that next time I will start photographing them from the confines of my driver’s seat and, not to be so vulnerably alone. When i returned through this city, not a window washer was in sight!

About nine hours from Nogales I blearily drove past my turn-off to San Carlos and had to back-track up through Guaymas. Yet another hour of my foolishness. Its old-town and waterfront is beautiful, an oasis of tranquility, but I  simply needed to complete the journey for the day. Guaymas is also a swirling chaos of mad driving through dusty, despairing, sprawling barrios with vague signage. My on-dash GPS was useless and I was too busy trying to stay alive to have time to glance at it anyway.

Empalme, a southern satellite community of Guaymas. The fishing fleet was in before the tide fell. Fishermen stand out in the traffic selling bags of fresh prawns.

On the main street of San Carlos is an oasis for the weary traveller. There were more Canadians there than those left in Canada. They have a web site.

A view from my parking spot. Mexicans do seem to like their walls…Donald.

Sprawling development is going on everywhere. There goes the neighbourhood!


Well, somebody has to live here…don’t they?

Maybe I’m jealous, but it seems obscene to me. A concrete artisan and his helper do not even dare think of living in a place like this…nor me.

“Hi Mom, we’re home!”
What else can I say?

Cuanto vale? Below the 200 peso notes, clockwise the coins are 50 pesos,20 pesos, old and new, 10 pesos also old and new, 2 pesos, and 1/10 pesos.
The total of the entire complicated heap is 634.1p or about $30.US
There is also a 1/2 French franc which I cannot explain.

There are many splendid vehicles in Mexico which we never see in the north. There are both novel (To me) imports and locally built vehicles. This wonderful little Mexican Chevy truck has side-steps, a place to stand on the back bumper and a hand rail behind the cab.

Reality on the other side of the bay at Marina Real. Imagine living here and going to work at the shining luxury condos across the water at Marina Real. Kids, dogs, a leaning outhouse, piles of nets and laundry.

Home Sweet Home  complete with water barrel and a rocking chair in the sand. Don’t laugh, there’s no mortgage!

Obviously, yet I live. I am writing this in the rising warmth and light of another Mexican morning. A few feet above my head is a cooing dove hidden in the dense foliage. I am vibrating-weary. I love Mexico and ache to go on south, or just stay and rest, but I’ll complete the business at hand and promises kept, I’ll turn back Northward. Low finances and a faltering vehicle demand prudence. I desperately need to take a break. Crossing back into the US will, this time, take me a long way toward an ease of anxiety. There is a band of Northern Mexico which, in my estimate,is about 200 miles wide that I dislike. San Carlos marks the latitude of Mexico where I begin to love the country more and more as I drive further south. Sadly, this is as far as I am going. I’ll complete my business here and then turn northward.

It seems that every grotty little Mexican fishing village has at least one upscale seafood restaurant for the gringos. How could I resist a place with a doorman like this?

How about a table without a reservation and a view like this? You know the food’s good when the locals eat there.

At the next table, an aging rock star perhaps. Note the personal beer bottle glove.

Don’t get up. The view from my table.

The appetiser. The rest of the meal was as incredible and including two beer and a tip, it was the equivalent of approx $20. cdn

Was I really there? It seemed like a dream.

The village at La Manga where poor people still live by the sea and can afford to eat seafood…because they catch it themselves.
Another panga arrives with a fresh supply for the restaurant.

There must be a story here! Note the Saskatchewan license plate. Is the old camper someone’s home?

A Mexican attempt at recycling.

Honest Umberto’s used Rv’s?

I remembered Joni Mitchell’s song about the tree museum.
Yep, yet another hotel stands beyond the foliage.

A view from the front.

A view to the rear.

A discreet luxury development near San Carlos. I’m told it has to do with laundering money. There are no lights on at night.

At least I agree with their ideas for lawns. Note the various spots where helicopters can land.

A lingering view of the open Sea Of Cortez, upon whose face I should be sailing.

As I drove up, over and down from this place, I imagined a posh British accent exclaiming, “I say! This would be a proper blighter if ever it should snow.”

The following morning, the reluctant meandering trek homeward began. I cast a sad last glance at the Sea Of Cortez from the San Carlos waterfront. It is piece of ocean I love and yet I did not even wet my feet in her this time. I’ll be back. Soon.

Out of the desert came forth wine. There are many continuous miles of new vineyards along the Sonoran highway. They extend out of sight away from the road.

“Everybody out!” A military checkpoint on the highway. Wen I was southbound trucks were lined up for several miles, each waiting for a tedious clearance. Two young soldiers, poke around inside as buses engine compartment. They were only a few surly questions for the old gringo in the old van.

Two days later, I am now on the intended-to be leisurely and meandering return homeward. I decide to divert and stop over in Puerto Penasco on the Eastern shore of the Gulf Of California, at the top of the Sea Of Cortez, which like so many, I love dearly. I have a rule about driving in Mexico in the dark and I so I broke my own law. Onward I went through endless miles of fields, then desert, then fields, all punctuated by dusty, desperately poor barrios. I drove westward, peering into the setting sun through a dusty, bug-spattered windshield. I was desperate to find a safe haven for the night and took no more photos that day. 

The best images ever are never recorded on a camera it seems, but remain in the back of my brain, as clear as the moment i saw them. I am stuck with an indelible image of children playing soccer in the ubiquitous adobe dust of Northern Mexico at dusk and I wonder at the their future. They are well dressed, and everyone has perfect haircuts yet you can see that where and how they live is well below anyone’s notion of a poverty line. They have wealth in the embrace of their expansive families and the joy of the moment is always evident despite the misery of which they know nothing else. There is clearly a joy in a life without expectations which I do not understand. The narrow, rutted, pot-holed road stretched on ahead forever it seemed. Rushing oncoming vehicles with brilliant lights, or one or none at all, zoomed past. I could find no safe-looking turnout to rest for the night. I was exhausted, my brain on auto-pilot as I resolved myself to a head-on crash. My ended life marked with another rusting metal cross on the edge of some nameless field.

No visit to Mexico is complete without a look at a few churches. This is the Catholic church facade in Santa Ana.

The ostentatious church rises grandly above the squalor and poverty of this little town.

Beneath exquisite old Spanish architecture these huge and beautifully carved doors are locked; from the inside. Sanctuary?

The priest’s car I guessed. In double lock-up to keep me out…or him in?

HOLY SHIT!
The only caption I can think of. This is the church cupula in Pitiquito.

The bells and pigeons of Pitiquito. The church door was open and a group of ladies conversed inside.

Across the street from the church, a dark biblical mural at the taxi stand. Cheering!

A mixed theme of the Second Coming and Dias Des Muertes. I’d like this artist to paint my van!

A bright spark of happy genius. Meals on wheels indeed! LA BOMBI!

Eventually on the horizon of this flat land, distant lights began to arise. I finally realized that this was what I had driven so long and far out of my way to see. I had envisioned a sleepy, Mexican fishing region, gentrified but tolerable. I had expected to find some open beach where I could park and rest for a few days. What I saw instead was a vision of hell. The place stretched on and on and lay miles off the highway.. It looked like pictures of Miami and I drove on into the night, my hopes shattered. I tried stopping in the parking lot of their airport, also miles off the road, but a security guard gave me the boost within a minute. I found a spot on the roadside, brightly lit and there I finally stopped. In the morning I jacked up the van, and pulled my rear wheels apart to try and find the source of a horrible grinding noise. U-joints was my diagnosis and so I decided to head onward to the border. Ajo or bust. First, I stopped to thank Barb’s Dog Rescue for the haven and security of their brightly lit sign. I, a dog-lover, gave myself a strict lecture, took a breath and went on in. I left quickly, head down, not looking back. All those lovely dogs. Surely I could manage to bring one home, a travelling companion and a pal for Jack. I faced reality, and drove on.

Well, I’m writing in Ajo now, a desert town. The area is a popular winter retreat. A friend is parked next door in the Belly Acres RV Park and there are new friends all around me. I slept eleven hours last night. The wind howled and a torrential rain hammered down as if I were at home on Vancouver Island. More desert flowers! Tomorrow morning the parts store and garage next door will open and the course of my fate will be determined. 

Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” …Albert Camus

Down From The Mountain

(Click on images to enlarge)

The entire desert environment is harsh and no place for fools (like me) to wander alone.

As is often said, there’s no fool like an old fool. An arduous climb, and harder descent lead me on to the next quest, the same day. I did not find the petroglyphs and ended up stuck in an arroyo for a couple of hours while I jacked the van, again and again, shovelled and stacked rocks until I finally found the high ground. Fool! You may tell me how clever I am to get myself out of my fix, as darkness fell but, this old backwoods man often recites the mantra “superior pilots use their superior knowledge to avoid situations requiring their superior skill.” All’s well that ends.

The path zig-zags ever upward. Each step is a conscious placement of your boots. The rocks are loose and grabbing a bush for support is a definite NOT! Nearly all vegetation is covered in vicious thorns.

The changing views are spectacular and draw you ever upward.

Homeland Insecurity sneaky-cam chained to a tree. James told me drug mules come over the mountain passes..yep, way up there. There are electronic sensors strategically placed and the soon the helicopters are on site.

Fresnal Canyon. It looks lovely, but there is no gentle strolling here.

It was stunning

A Godshead?

A view eastward toward Tonopah and Sells. The water towers are the giveaway. I find it impossible for this alien to to judge height and distance here.

In the distance beyond the cactus, San Miguel and then Mexico. There is an ominous incessant thunder far overhead as fighter jets practise. You can never see them.

I took this photo when my old injuries stopped complaining and started screaming. I reasoned that I was entirely alone and had forgotten to bring my cell phone. One slip, one sprain or broken bone could have been drastic. Going down was even more arduous. I would later learn that the cave I sought was at the  base of the cleft, in the tan spot. I was only ten minutes from the Creator’s Cave where legend has it he emerged to create the world and distribute the people of different colours. I did not feel quite ready to go meet my maker.

So…I sat a while and chatted with a cactus. He was even more prickly than I am.

Someone went to a lot of work to build these walls. An old camp on the mountain? How old?

Everything commands/demands respect.

Even in January the shade felt good. I can’t imagine clambering here on a summer day.

A ground squirrel sunning himself atop a huge boulder ponders the passage of the apparition I must have been.
I order my used Minolta 400mm reflex lense from Japan. It is fantastic for these sort of shots. The photo was taken hand-held at a distance of about sixty feet.

Ahhh! An underground stream emerges briefly to fall into this pool. Everything gathers there, wasps, flies, moths and all sorts of creatures that make tracks. The sound of that trickling water was sweet music indeed. Then the water disappears underground again.

This character was as tall as I am but was definitely not leaning out for a hug.

Dumb ass! I knew better and told myself so during the two hours of shovelling, jacking and packing rocks while darkness began to fall. The van is not a back country vehicle.

Night fell. Ominous but beautiful.

And so I spent the night.

Pre-dawn. Night creatures provided a wonderful symphony.

Don’t fence me in. Part of the coral where I spent the night.

Water is everything. Note the moisture flowing down the cliff face. What is its source?

Up the arroyo (or, wash). These are the super highways of the desert, where the going is easiest and ambush most likely.

Creak, clatter and squeak. The traditional windmill is a green source of retrieving the essence of life. This one was still pumping but the rest of the system needed attention.

Photographer in the well. I imagined falling in. What a place to die in the desert!

An offering in the desert.

Arroyo beans. Each seed contains the future.

Antcano!

After spending a night at an abandoned cowboy’s corner in the desert I finally made my way back to pavement and the small native town of Sells. I emerged from the grocery store to discover coolant again weeping form the van. Oh Golly! Uh huh.

A Caracara, desert hunter and scavenger, watches my departure.

I’ll be back.

After an eighty mile quest for an auto parts store, whereupon checking the length of a new hose, I discovered that my young Yuma mechanic had not properly tightened a hose clamp. Exhausted beyond words I drove around Nogales arranging Mexican travel insurance, finding a friendly ATM for cash to turn into Pesos and finally a place to park for the night. I am writing this in MacDonalds in Walmart. The van is parked, it seems, a mile across the parking lot in the far corner. An antithesis from Baboquivari, but damn, they do have good wifi! I’ve discovered this during yet another sleepless night in the van.

When I walked back to my urban camp I thought my weary eyes were deceiving me. There were creatures snuffling all around it. To my utter delight, the creatures turned out to be Javelinas, a type of peccary and not a feral pig. I was stunned but managed to grab some cell phone footage of these Wal Mart wanderers. By the way, about my Ajo Bird in the last blog. A reader commented to suggest the bird was a curve-billed Thrasher. By guidebook to birds of this region confirmed that. So, at 03:30 from the Nogales Arizona Wal Mart parking lot, this blog’s for you.

In a pig’s eye!

Walmart marauders. You thought I was kidding? So did I at first.

A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” …Victor Borge

Baboquivari

The beautiful old church in Ajo. Look at this and hear the coo of Mourning Doves

My Ajo Bird. He sang while I prepared to move on. I’ll have to learn which flavour of desert bird he is.

Downtown, old Ajo.

The centerpiece at the general store in Why, AZ. Rock music droned from speakers in the cab. I want one!

The store. What visitors can pass without stopping?

And why not indeed? This nest is in a cactus in front of the store.

I’ve seen plenty, but they’re always on the run…away. So are the wing-eared Desert Jack Rabbits who are almost as big as the coyotes.

Wild mustang stallion. I saw the herd crossing an arroyo so I raced ahead, slammed on the brakes and leapt out. This guy, was very patriarchal and stood guard till the rest of the herd ran ahead. Look at the scars on his chest! He’s a feisty old guy.

Run girls, run!

Once they were safely out of sight, Old Studly brought up the rear. What a thrill to see!

Can you smell the smoke? It’s mesquite. There is a campfire at my right elbow. A breeze blows the heat my way as well as a fine shower of ashes. Above me, through the still-bare limbs of a Mexican Blue Oak, the desert stars throb with a spectacular energy. Towering over me, a mile above, are the stark black cliffs and peaks of Baboquivari. Until a few minutes ago they still held an eerie glow from the distant sunset.

Arizona backroad to Fresnal Canyon and the foot of Baboquivari. It’s the high one in the distance.

A pilgrim arrived. Baboquivari is in the background. behind the tree.

Look closely.

See?

Another offering to the creator. This place is the ultimate church. Folks come from all , mountainsover in answer to its call. Others come to climb the lofty vertical stack at the top of the mountain. I barely began that ascent!

The west-facing cliffs held the sunset even into darkness. In the morning I would climb to the base of the long shadow to the right of center. It looked easy!

Slowly, the light faded as if reluctant to let go of the mountains.

Last year’s birdnest and a promise of new leaves in the new year.

Have you ever felt excitement and peace all at once? I am here, finally, after dreaming of it for five years; and I’ll be back! This is a sacred place to the local Tohono O’odham indigenous people whose history here goes back at least 12,000 years. Other native nations in the American Southwest have successfully declared themselves sovereign states, complete with their own passports which you are required to have to enter their land.

Night falls

Only the crackle of the rising flames and calls of night creatures punctuated a silence that you could feel. Wonderful!

Night desk. Where this blog was written. The desk lamp is a wonderful solar lamp/USB charger imported from Norway.

The Tohono embrace you as a visitor to their hallowed mountain. Shinto priests have come from Japan to meditate here. I understand that, I can feel why. The resident guide/caretaker, James, welcomed me and issued me with a free permit as well as telling me where to hike to find some secret places. I will rest here for a day or two. I would stay longer if there were good company to share this with. On my bucket list, coming here was very near the top. I have been summoned since I first saw this place five years ago from the lookout on Kitt Peak. It will take more than one blog to complete this essay.

James, my mountain mentor and guru. This man exudes an aura. The peace in his eyes and the lines on his face tell of his life’s time in a radius of this mountain and a deep spiritual attachment to his land. He is eager to share his knowledge if you are eager to hear him. We have promised to meet again….in the same place.

Trump this! A traditional and effective method of fence-building.
James told of meeting illegal immigrants who were “In rough shape” and doing what he could to help fellow humans in desperate need. While
I understand the reasons for going through the legal process of
immigration, I also ponder about people who walk all the way from the bottom of Central American to take the risks of illegal entry. Aren’t those the kind of folks you’d want in your country? The US Homeland Security Forces is a massive military force and seems, to my eyes, to be waging a huge battle largely with their own paranoia. But I can hold no opinions, either way based on what I’ve seen. I am an outsider, and also an alien intruder.

Devil’s claws decorate and protect Jame’s home at the base of the mountain.

First Light…and the climb begins.

I was watched.

…And watched. These feral, free range cattle roam everywhere. how they pass through the thick, tangled and massively-thorned brush is amazing. It is even more incredible that native cowboys are able to round them up and coral them.

Up through the shadows I climbed. The pathway is very rugged and not for the faint-hearted. Next blog will be images of the climb and descent.

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” …Oliver Wendell Holmes

Desert Fever

One can only wonder at the history. I am noting, as I talk to more folk, that while they value the huge contribution provided by Mexican immigrants, it is the illegals from all over Central America that they object to. Point taken!

Friday, January 25th. It seems like ten months since Christmas! This morning I crawled out of bed well before dawn and decided that no matter what, I’d catch up on my blogging. Six hours later I was done and packed up the van, ready for the road. After bidding a fond farewell to my Ladysmith amigos, I went and provisioned up, then hit the road. Aghast at the size of the RV dealer’s lots I finally cleared through a Homeland Insecurity checkpoint and began to feel free again. I’d beaten the mechanical gremlins and was off to see the wizard. But then I began to smell something. My weary old farm boy brain decided it must be the faint aroma of some chemical being applied to the fields that I was passing.

Northern Sonora Desert vista.
I keep trying to imagine what it was like before us white folk arrived. This is what it must have looked like.

At a place called Wellton, I pulled off to gas up before pursuing an alternate route along a back road which is always my bliss; exploring a new rural track. At the gas pumps I shut off the ignition. Pshhhhhh!!! Balls of steam erupted from under the hood. I swore softly. Yeah right! When I crawled underneath I could see coolant running down behind the new water pump. I swore softly again. As it is turns out an old heater hose had ruptured. It should have been replaced when the pump was changed, but, that’s the way the pickle squirts.

My desert neighbour. He was cautiously amiable. He was travelling very light and was heading home to North Carolina after a tour of Mexico!

Between a rock and a hard place. Desert repairs for dummies.

All mine! There is absolutely no one around to lend a cup of sugar. Repairs complete!

After slowly cooling the engine down I made a temporary repair then ventured into the tiny farm town and found the new hose and coolant I would need for a permanent fix in the morning. The NAPA clerk assured me that Geronimo’s Mexican Restaurant across the street was excellent. Noting the vultures circling above I came on in. It is five pm as I write and the place is filling with local seniors. Muy Beuno! I last ate a small bowl of hot cereal at 05:30 and this place has fantastic authentic food especially when feeling famished.

Geronimo’s Wellton AZ
Stop in if you are going buy. You’ll thank me for the tip.

After my meal, I stepped outside…and looked up!
“For Whom The Vultures Circle.”

Next door to Geronimo’s , Pauline’s Treasures was closed…but the inventory stayed outside. That’s a social comment!

Heartbreaker! She was wandering on the road, miles from anywhere. Beautiful, friendly and affectionate It hurt to drive on and leave her behind. I did not look in the mirror; noting that someone must be feeding her.

Well, now I’ve made several repairs to the accommodation infrastructure, and three to the engine room so, damn your teeth Murphy, I’m confident the worst is behind me. On the wall beside me, is a ubiquitous black and white photo of the area which I’ve seen several times. It was taken in Yuma in 1950 when two men in a small Aeronca sedan flew in circles for forty-five days non stop. They were served with fuel, oil and food from a convertible car racing beneath. What they did for matters of personal hygiene is a nagging question for me. I once had an airplane which held nine hours worth of fuel. My bladder never outlasted that fuel tank and I tried several creative and sometimes humiliating ideas. Both machines have been recovered, restored and are now on permanent display inside the Yuma City Hall.

Old Cactus Bones hisself.
I could wear out a camera here.

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site
A sacred experience for anyone with a heart

I edited my number of frames of this place down to 36. I could have easily taken four times more!

Clicking Man
The best light is always at either end of the day.

Ma, Ma! The mules is gone!

A whole lot of mooing going on. There are very many feedlots with an amazing number of cows. The stench is horrific even to this old farm boy!

The Solara Generating Station. There are several of these randomly scattered across the countryside. Each one is incredibly immense.

Geezer Cycle Gangs
There are huge herds of these as well.

Don’tcha fall off now!
There is far more money in this custom tricycle than there is my van

There are still two hours of daylight, I forge on eastward and look for a place to spend the night. Just at dusk I pull off the old highway I’ve been travelling and over a hump, behind a hill, I find a spot in raw desert that seems perfect. As I manoeuvre for a level spot I notice a small tent and a motorcycle a mere one hundred yards away. I go to apologize for cramping his solitude. The fellow is amiable enough but won’t shake my hand or give me his name.

The night is splendid with a moon-lit desert and brilliant stars. Up[ before dawn, I make my repairs, then take a short hike. In the distance I can hear crump…crump, crup..crump. I check the map. It is artillery from a distant practise range. It is far enough away to somehow add an air of peacefulness to my scene.

A day later, I’m blogging from ‘Belly Acres’ Rv Park in Ajo Az,a place I’ve stayed before. The sun is just breaking through the van windows, mourning doves are cooing away from the palm tree above me. Today I’ll be off to Baboquivari. There ’ll be no peace in the valley.

And now for a few desert blooms

Winter flowers. The spring desert bloom is just beginning. I’m told that because of heavy December rains, the show will soon be fantastic.

am going to have to dig out my books and learn the names of some of these.

At first I thought that some one ahead must be heaving sacks of cotton balls out of their car window. Then I noticed that a particular plant had these fuzzy flowers attached. Dunno!

Out of reach except for hummingbirds

Much, much more to come!

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

…Saint Augustine

YUMA

Driving south from Goldfield I began to see Yucca trees. Here’s a forest of them.

Poston, Arizona on the banks of the Colorado River
This area, within a large radius of Yuma is some of the most productive farm land in America… and the money is made on the backs of Mexican immigrants, legal or not. The extravagant farm owner’s houses tell the story. so do the grim barrios where the workers are housed.

 

Driving toward Yuma from the west, you must pass through Quartzsite, the biggest flea market I’ve ever seen.

It’s a mess to get through

Everything imaginable is for sale

I mean everything! This is a Bell 47 J2A. I worked on these when I was an apprentice helicopter mechanic. I still love this model.

Tens of thousands of RVs park in the desert. It is called “Dry Camping”

Yuma bound

Snowbirdville
Hundreds of thousands of northerners spend their winter here, just like this.

Old cars are a passion here. This, I believe, is a 1940 Ford

In a Yuma backyard. The grapefruit just fall and lay on the lawn. They are $3 each back home.

A Yuma weed growing beside the sidewalk. Dates are smeared all over the concrete.

Yet another Yuma suburban scene

WEEDS!

Colorado River dawn. It looks kind of biblical!

The Mormon Battalion once passed through here to fight the Mexicans. This is a commemorative statue in the adjacent park.

I liked the poem.

Nobody home.

January flowers. There are wonderful colours, alien to me, which bloom everywhere.

Respect!

Outspoken

Still working after all these years

Waiting for parts

Re-radial low profile tires

Dry dawn

Thirsty

Thinking green? Recycling is clearly a novel idea here. It looks a lot like Mexico!

Super mannequin

Studebaker Bullet Nose
Nearly 70 years old and still ahead of its time!

My Mexican laundry.

Anything for a buck. Mexican enterprise.

First coffee and finally… a selfie stick!

RV Park dawn. Up before the quail to catch up on my blogging. The stars are magnificent here. Five hours later, it is getting too bright to see the computer screen. Time to move on. Desert Ho!

 

In my last blog, I described Yuma well enough. It is a massive sprawling agricultural barrio with non-stop trains, howling freeway and endless military flights. Look there goes another F69! I’ve stayed in the same RV park for four nights while repairs were made and while visiting friends from my marina in Ladysmith. John and Lynne are seasoned snow birds and have pampered me wonderfully. Now it is time to move on. This RV park is nestled on the southern bank of the Colorado River, immediately adjacent to an amazing park built on the reclaimed land of a huge garbage dump. Here are some of my photographic impressions of the drive into Yuma and of my last four days here. I’ll post this blog and then move on into the raw desert.

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” …Mark Twain

Broke Down In Yuma

(I know I promised)

I know I promised to cut down on the prose and focus on photos. (Now there’s a pun.) At the moment I am writing while sitting in my van while a young man works on the engine four feet away from this keyboard. He is frustratingly slow. It is not because he is Mexican, he’s just young. And how the hell do you work under the hood of a vehicle while wearing sunglasses?

So where do the Catholics park? This was a sign I found in Austin. Nothing is sacred if there is a dollar to be made.

Hours north of Las Vegas I passed through Goldfield NV, a once thriving gold rush community. There are still mining activities, but the place is a living permanent ‘Burning Man’ sort-of gasping ghost town.

A truly great radio station!
Google it up and have a listen.

A product of the “Four Wheel Drive Truck Company”
No airbags!

No flats. Low-profile solid rubber tires, mechanical band brakes. She must of been a riot to drive.

A Cletrack. My camera heated up as I shot up this fascinating place.

Yes, it is real. A narrow gauge mining steam locomotive.

SEE! Burning man!

A wonderfully nutty town.

Main Street,
Goldfield. There was an aroma of wood smoke.

Say no more!

 

I mentioned my old tires in a previous blog. I finally decided that I had to replace them. Problem is, their cost equals my gas budget to get home again. But, it now feels like I’m driving a much newer vehicle. It would be irresponsible continuing to drive something that was clearly unsafe. After parking in Searchlight, my morning inspection revealed that my engine’s water pump was giving me fair warning. I bought a replacement pump in an effort to outwit Murphy and have made it to the campground where some friends from home are staying in Yuma. It was great seeing them and they have been wonderfully helpful. Replacing the pump is a straight forward job for an old wrench-bender like me but my experience says it is not a job to do on the roadside nor in the very civilized camp ground where I’m staying. And, if there is some small part I may need…! So here I sit, trying to patient while time and money vaporize.

Runway 24
My morning amble took me up and down on the runway at Searchlight Nevada where I stopped for the night

Crash landing. This place was clearly a failed development of a fly-in suburb built around a runway where you could taxi right up to your house.

Speaking of crash landings! north of Las Vegas I came upon the once infamous Mustang Ranch, a bordello just north of Beatty NV. There was a huge horse’s head in white on the hill above the site. The wreck is a Beech 18, famous twin-engined workhorse. A little further north I passed a sign marking the “Shady Lady Bed & Breakfast” Uh Huh!

It looks like I may not be going to Mexico after all . The friends I was rushing down to San Carlos to meet have moved on south because their plans shifted into sub-section F. After making repairs I think it is prudent to stay north of the border but…I am dead, burned-out exhausted and not making good decisions. I think I will stay in Yuma for one more day and just rest. I have long wanted to return to an area I saw from the top of Kitt Peak Observatory, a short distance southwest of Tucson. To the south of the observatory stands Baboquivari, an ancient volcanic cone that is a sacred mountain to the local Tohono O’Odham Indians. There is a remote campground there which will be a great place to rest, write, and explore with my cameras. After that, I’ll decide which plan is best. It is certainly not pleasant doing this pilgrimage alone and on a tight budget but I need to recharge my own batteries and have a rest. Baboquivari will make the whole journey worthwhile, and I’m not ruling Mexico out just yet.

On the road to Vegas

The long road home

Sundown before Las Vegas. I knew I should have stopped for the night!

Yuma is a bewildering mix of endless dusty barios and shining Neo-Amurica. It sprawls on and on and is the largest farm town I’ve ever seen, surrounded for many, many miles on all sides with some of the most productive agricultural land on the continent. Chances are the vegetables for tonight’s supper came from the Yuma area. The price of that production is the draining of the Colorado River. It no longer runs into the Sea Of Cortez. It is pumped dry for irrigation of the fertile dark soil. That is after several years of drought, a subject to discuss another time.

Beatty Nevada. That damned cop trundled along at 1 mph under the limit…of 25mph. I felt he was daring me to pass him!

Apparently, there were December rains this winter and I am told that desert will soon burst into a rare riot of blooms. Today a cold, dry winter desert wind continues to blast the broad valley but I am wearing short sleeves while many folks are in wool caps and parkas. I am a Canadian…like hundreds of thousands of other Northern Snowbirds crowding dusty campgrounds for hundreds of miles. I clearly have a very different notion of getting away from it all.It is abierto for me! In the distance, the ancient sun-blasted mountains of Mexico loom above the verdant plains of the Colorado River. Their call is so strong!

Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.” …John Keats