Posted by: glenswatman | December 1, 2007

200711 – 2- USA Arizona California

FRIDAY 16 NOVEMBER – Hoping to catch up with
Les & Margaret we make an early start. 
In Cottonwood a new locking petrol cap enables us to fill up on fuel.
Unfortunately Les & Margaret are now on the move, to where we were on
Wednesday.  Tuzigoot is a nearby ancient
Sinagua ruin ($5 pp without pass) and we catch the guided tour based on “hunter
gatherers”.  True to form we don’t
manage to stay the course but do gain some new info and enjoy the sight of the
ruined town.  Jerome is a resurrected
ghost-mining town clinging to a steep mountainside.  Actually I should say abandoned copper mining town, as they
certainly didn’t mine for ghosts!  After
a steep ascent we miss the first parking spot on the edge of town and are
forced onto the narrow one-way street. 
The town looks really intriguing but parking is impossible for us.  Hope to park at the far end of town but
before we know it we are through and heading up a steep mountain road with no
place to turn around.  Too late I
remember our Plan A (or was it B or C) was to turn back in Jerome to avoid the
steep mountain crossing.  The road
weaves higher to almost 8000’ and although you do reach one nice viewing point
the journey itself is no fun.  Arriving
in Prescott we pass impressive granite boulders and rock formation, one
particularly nice area surrounding a lake. 
Settle on to the Wal-Mart for the afternoon. 

PRESCOTT VALLEY WAL*MART

 

SATURDAY 17 NOVEMBER – At the nearby Prescott
Resort we call in to see the opening of the 
“Worlds largest gingerbread village”. 
It’s a competition where people make gingerbread houses often in the shape
of their own homes.  Free hot drinks and
biscuits are provided whilst we file past all the entrants noting some really
good ones including a winner in the form “A Christmas Carol” book.  Drive through, but can’t park, in the
historic district which looks OK but not outstanding.  Once again we must do mountain roads in order to finally drop
down into the Arizona desert.  Pass
through many rough looking villages where almost everyone seems to have some
junk displayed for sale.  The many giant
saguaro cacti that grow here enhance the landscape; they are the big tree like
ones with limbs that you see in all the movies.   Peeples Valley is peppered with large ranches and with the
yellow autumn leaves it looks nothing like a desert. BLM (Bureau of land
management) land abounds in the area and most of it is available for free camping.  Near Vicksburg is such an area and we make
our way over compacted earth strewn with stones.  During World War 2 General Patton used this terrain for tank
training but we stick to the flats. 
There are a group of 4 other vans with ATV’s but apart from that we have
the pick of the area and select a private spot by a bushy gully surrounded by
giant cactus.

VICKSBURG, BLM LAND 

 

SUNDAY 18 NOVEMBER – A 15 minute walk takes us
back to Vicksburg where there is a “swap meeting”.  For $150 (£75) month people camp here (with full hook ups) and
display their wares for sale, mainly minerals and gem stones.  It’s rather like a car boot sale with
interesting characters.  Return home and
with the other group leaving at lunchtime we have the desert to ourselves.

VICKSBURG 2, BLM LAND

 

MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER – It’s too nice to leave,
hot days, warm evenings and 1-duvet nights are too good to resist.  Sit our reading and then take time over our
lunch of cream of mushroom soup followed by steak, cream sauce, stir fried celery,
onion rings and chips rounded off with apple pie and ice cream. 

VICKSBURG 3, BLM LAND

 

TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER – Nearby Quartzsite is
famous for the thousands of RV’ers that spend winter there. The area caters for
everyone from free campers up to luxurious campgrounds but all at reasonable
prices.  Long-term visitors pay a one
off $140 (£70) to stay for up to 7 months at any of the LTV free camping
places.   Every other business in town
is RV related and down the side streets all vacant lots seem to have been
converted into mini RV parks.  It’s
still very quiet as few people arrive until after Thanksgiving with most
appearing in January ready for the gem and mineral show.  Just north of town the short-term free
14-day camping area on Plomosa Road is OK but after having our lunch we decide
it is already too busy for us.  Parker
is a good size town with all facilities and their Blue Water casino gets our
thumbs up for its location.  It’s right
on the banks of a mini lake created on the Colorado River and you can walk down
to a man made sandy beach and even swim in the pleasantly warm blue water.  The icing on the cake is when Steve is
wandering around the casino deciding what to spend his $5 play money on when he
sees a slot machine with 25c left on it. 
Within 3 goes he has won $26.75 and hastens back to the van to show me
his winning payout ticket.

PARKER, BLUE WATERS CASINO

 

WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER – Unfortunately it turns
out to be a noisy car park, cinema goers leaving late at night and trucks
setting off in the early hours.  Heading
north we pick up the coast road along the banks of the Colorado River with
superb views.  There are many mini
tourist villages and lots of campgrounds along this attractive stretch.  Parker Dam is the highest in the world but with
2/3 of it underground and unable to cross it in a motorhome we don’t make the
detour.  The whole journey up to Lake
Haversu on the 95 is scenic with irrigated areas of green contrasting with the
desert scenery and rocky outcrops. 
We’re here to look at London Bridge, the second most popular Arizona
tourist attraction after the Grand Canyon. 
It comes with a good story.  In
the 1960’s back in England it became evident the bridge was sinking due to the
high volume of traffic.  It was
purchased by Bob McCulloch his winning bid was $1.2m for dismantling, 100%
profit to the city of London and $10,000 for each year of his age.  Each of the 10,276 pieces of the bridge were
numbered before being dismantled, shipped to California then transported by
road to Lake Haversu city in the Arizona desert.  The bridge was reconstructed on dry land on a peninsula that
jutted out into the Colorado River. 
Once re assembled a 1-mile channel was dredged out to divert water under
the bridge.  Total cost was said to be
between $5.1m and $7.5m.  Anyway the
tourists began arriving and an English Village was created on the shores
assisted by other artefacts brought over from England.  Unfortunately the consortium went bankrupt
and the whole area is now falling into a state of neglect and feels rather like
“Camelot” theme park on a wet day.  It’s
a very windy day with a dust storm brewing so not pleasant for walking around
being sand blasted. However China Buffet opposite tempts us with their $5.99
(£3) lunch deal and it is superb, the best Chinese buffet we have ever had with
a huge variety of food (including sushi and traditional American fare) all
cooked to perfection.  After a drive
around town and bit of shopping we head south on the 95 and park up at MM174,
Standard Wash on BLM land.  The first
groups of vehicles have generators out so we venture further up the track for a
bit more peace and quiet.  Peace is
shattered at midnight when vehicles arrive and begin driving around nearby to
us.  It seems to be an extended family
with a large caravan, 2 4wd trucks, 4 motorbikes, children and dogs.  They noisily set up camp, fire up the
generator to power an arc late then sit around a campfire chatting noisily
whilst others zoom around on the scrambling bikes.  How considerate can you get?

LAKE HAVERSU, STANDARD WASH BLM

 

THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER – It’s Thanksgiving Day
holiday here so we are surprised by the amount of traffic on the road.  Return to Blue Waters casino as they are
having a boat race tomorrow and should be practising today.  This time we park at the beach by the marina
and have a lovely spot on the banks of the river.  At 5pm Steve goes to the casino to enter a Texas Hold Em
tournament, as it’s only $10 to buy in. 
He returns an hour and a half later $30 down on the deal but having had
some fun and learnt from the experience. 
A couple of other huge RV’s have come down to park by us.  In addition to their big rigs they have lots
of toys, 4wd cars and boats.  We sit out
in the evening chatting to Rod & Gerry and John (his wife has gone to bed
early).  They are all wannabe travellers
and Rod & Gerry have ordered a new motorhome for next year as they feel
their 40’ long 16ton one is not big enough for full time living!  John’s truck based motorhome tows a 2-storey
trailer behind to accommodate his toys, another world to our style of
motorhoming but very nice people to chat to.

LAKE HAVERSU 2, BLUE WATER CASINO MARINA

 

FRIDAY 23 NOVEMBER – The roar of jet boats
warming up wakes us.  The races begin
with the jet skiers who have to do a circuit with a few bends in the
middle.  Next are the regular jet boats
followed by the 2 man craft.  Fun to
watch but not mega exciting and it’s extremely cold out with a strong wind, so
strong that by lunchtime they are talking of cancelling the rest of the day’s
races.  In Parker we can see the making
of a dust storm but luckily as we cross the Colorado River into CALIFORNIA  heading west the wind slackens.  Clocks back 1-hour on to Pacific Time (8
hours behind BST) with the downside being that it will be dark just after 5pm
tonight.  The transition from Sonora to
Mojave Desert is instantly noticeable as we are now in sandy terrain.  The road is very bumpy and has many drainage
dips so it’s a bit like riding an old wooden roller coaster.  For many miles the railway runs at the side
of the road and it’s really interesting because people have used stones from
the desert to create names and slogans on the embankment.  Turn off towards Joshua Tree Park and once
over the mountain we begin to see dozens of abandoned shacks in the
desert.  At the park visitor centre we
learn that many belong to people who had a farming lease but have now found it
too hard and just left whilst others are still peoples holiday homes.  We’ve slipped up as being a national holiday
all the campgrounds in the park are full. 
The nearest free camping is said to be 8 miles away but when we find it
we have travelled 15.  At least we
arrive before it gets dark and other than a very cold night it is nice and
quiet.

NR JOSHUA TREE TOWN, BLM LAND CASCADE ROAD ADJACENT TO
SUNFAIR ROAD

 

SATURDAY 24 NOVEMBER – We can’t be bothered
going all the way back to the parks east entrance so go in at the western end,
pass saves us $15 admission.  The drive
through the valley is extremely interesting with lots of granite boulder and
rock formations and forests full of Joshua Trees.  They look like a cross between a tree, yucca plant and cactus and
remind us of the quiver trees in Namibia. 
Park up to do the exceptionally good Hidden Valley walk where we see a
wide range of vegetation plus many examples of the Joshua trees.  The park is a great spot for rock climbers
with enough variation to suit people of all abilities and the granite making it
easy to get a hold.  Nearby Barker Dam
walk is almost as good but by the time we get back to the car the parking lot
is full and we realise that trying to visit any other places would be
difficult.  Right decision because
leaving the park the people are queuing up at the entrance gate.  In the town of Yucca Valley we learn we
can’t park at Wal*Mart but it makes an OK lunch stop.  Just down the road the California Welcome Centre offers free
motorhome parking with electric hook ups round the back.  After gathering lots of tourist info I use
their free Internet and find out that there is a casino about 35 miles from
here with free camping.  This is
obviously not going to be the quietest spot around so at 4pm we make the
decision to move on.  We immediately
find ourselves driving into the blinding sunshine but luckily a mountain soon
blocks it.  Realise just how high up we
were as the road down to I10 is downhill almost all the way.  At Palm Springs we are amazed by the sheer
number of wind generators, there must be thousands of them literally, most
lined up like soldiers.  Once on the I10
we hit heavy traffic and within a few minutes are in a traffic jam crawling
along.  Now we were expecting this
problem around Los Angeles but not over 90 miles out.  Manage to get off the freeway and make our way to Morongo Casino
just as it gets dark.  Friendly security
staff on bikes guide us to the motorhome parking lot and free shuttle buses
take you back to the casino itself. 

CABAZON – MORONGO CASINO

 

SUNDAY 25 NOVEMBER – Back on the freeway we by
pass San Bernardino and then begin to see the smoke from the Malibu fires.  We’re going to visit some friends and they
have given us a route plan that includes an overnight stop at Wal*Mart near
Duerte.  The traffic is free flowing and
we reach our destination by lunchtime. 
Wander round the different stores noting that with thanksgiving out of
the way the emphasis is now on Christmas. 
Appropriate music is playing and people are loading up shopping carts
with gifts and decorations.  
Unfortunately the ambulance and fire stations are nearby so it’s not the
quietest place to stay but good for entertainment including a car crash right
opposite.

DUERTE WAL*MART

 

MONDAY 26 NOVEMBER – We’ve been warned that
rush hour traffic can last until 11am but by 10am it seems to be over and we
join the freeway.  We travel through the
areas of Pasadena and Hollywood, all names very familiar to us Brits.  With www.mapquest.com
directions we have no problem following our route but American drivers are
another story.  They frequently weave
between lanes but make it very difficult for us to change lanes when we need to
as no one wants to be stuck behind a motorhome.  Entry lane slip roads come onto the freeway immediately before
the exit lanes making for another interesting experience.  However we grit out teeth and make it safely
through to the northwestern part of Los Angeles known as Thousand Oaks.  We met Norm & Pat on Wal*Mart car park
near Quebec City and hit it off immediately. 
They have invited us to park up at their place for a week or so and
offered to “play tourist” with us.  They
have the perfect set up for us including a dump station and city water
connection.  Within minutes of our
arrival Norm is pottering around helping Steve to do an oil change on the
generator and asking what other problems we have that he can help with.  As an ex engineer and fellow motorhome owner
he has lots of know how.  I join Pat for
a ride out to the local shops and we talk about the things we would like to see
in LA area.  My initial research showed
no campgrounds near LA within walking distance of public transport and this
coupled with the horrendous traffic had us giving the whole area a miss prior
to Pat & Norms invitation to visit. 
Consequently anything we do is a real bonus.

LOS ANGELES, THOUSAND OAKS

 

TUESDAY 27 NOVEMBER – Our 9am start is delayed
by a freeway hold up but Norm uses the time productively and organises a cable
TV connection for us.  At this rate we
will be reluctant to leave!  By about
10am we head off in the free flowing traffic to the Getty Centre.  Free to visit but $8 (£4) to park.  It’s a massive complex in an architectural
building designed to enhance the artworks including top floors with natural
light for the old oil paintings.  From
the car park a train takes you up to the main buildings with fine views en
route.  After an orientation film we
begin making our way through the many linked buildings.  Along with paintings there are photos,
statues, furniture and other antiquities all bought from the Getty trust fund.  We thoroughly enjoy ourselves and round it
all off with the architectural tour pointing out many of the fine features
including the natural travertine used for the floors and building walls.  Norm drives us down the “Santa Monica
Boulevard” with Steve and I unable to resist chipping in with the song and sure
enough once we reach the oceanfront the sun is going down.  The homes along below the crumbling
Palisades are all very interesting and the whole area rather pleasant.  We are more than happy to back by the ocean,
our last sighting being back in September. 
Following the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) around the coast we pass
through Malibu where huge fire camps are still in use in anticipation of any
flare ups.  Return through a winding
steep canyon to T.O.  Pat cooks us a
meal after which we watch TV to catch up on some of the crime series that we
all like.

T.O. 2

 

WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER – There is a fierce
Santa Anna wind and we all have a few jobs to do so no tourist activities
today.  I’ve been getting some terrific
shocks around the van so take the opportunity to remove and wash everything
possible with fabric softener and bounce sheets thrown in to help.  Norm takes me to the local AAA office where
posing as his wife I collect loads of maps and guidebooks for our continuing
trip.  Fit in many other odd jobs but
have the van straightened up enough to have Pat & Norm in to join us for a
roast pork dinner in the evening.

T.O. 3

 

THURSDAY 29 NOVEMBER –  Our first stop of the day is Forest Lawn
Memorial Cemetery.  Famous people such
as Walt Disney, Groucho Marx and Jean Harlow are buried here but other
attractions include the stained glass depiction of  Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. 
It’s in a magnificent Italian style mausoleum and a presentation
illuminates it to best effect and tells of it’s making and points out some
interesting features.  Further into the
park are many superb statues, mausoleums 
and memorial gardens. 
Unfortunately due to the families wishes the staff are not permitted to
tell you the location of the famous graves but tell us you can find the info on
line!  In a purpose built auditorium we
find the 195’ x 45’ painting “The Crucifixion” and enjoy the accompanying
information show.  Already impressed
with the park the icing on the cake is the temporary exhibition of futuristic
and imaginative art including lots of Disney sketches.  We drop down to the Hollywood area for an
excellent Thai lunch at “Chan Darae” on Cahuenga Blvd, a bonus of local knowledge
as Pat used to come here when she worked at nearby Capitol Records.  Park on Hollywood Boulevard at the Kodak
Centre and notice that they must have been warned of our arrival as they are
just rolling out the red carpet.  The
Boulevard sidewalk is peppered with star shaped commemorative stones to various
artists with a symbol underneath to show movie star, film, singer or
speaker.  Outside the Chinese theatre we
check out the many hand and footprints including a recent addition of the cast
of Harry Potter.  Strolling the streets
there are many buskers including a number of 
Spidermen and other movie characters. 
Norm drives us up into the hills from where we get a superb view of the
famous “Hollywood” sign.  Heading down
Sunset Strip (there is no 77) we enjoy seeing the different buildings and business
and then the homes as we pass through Beverley Hills.  We’ve got tickets for “Deal or no deal” filming at the NBC
studios and arrive late but get prime seats. 
It’s very entertaining but we are disappointed to find they only film
the first half of the show leaving us not knowing whether the contestant got
the $1m or not. 

T.O. 4

 

FRIDAY 30 NOVEMBER – Rain induces us to cancel
our planned visit to downtown as it would be mainly walking outdoors.  Spend the time organising things for our
onward trip and Mexico. 

T.O. 5

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