Monday, March 28, 2011

Blues Fest, The Desert Bar and Route 66

We went to check out the first band at the Parker Blues Fest, which was held at the La Paz RV Park, where we’re staying. The band was really not very good. They were called Highway 95. That highway runs close to here so I’m assuming they were somewhat local. I hope so because there’s three or four bands in Kamloops alone that could have stole the stage from them. They were slated to play for a couple of hours so we browsed around the antique cars that were on display as well as a flea market. They were both run in conjunction with the Blues Fest.

After lunch we returned to see the second band, The Outback Blues Band, from Phoenix. They had a booth at The Fest where they were selling CDs and t-shirts and, considering that they’re from a city of five million people, I thought we were in for a lot better music. Not to be. They were still lousy. The same tired old blues standards that just about every beginner blues band straps on. There were no deep grooves, no funk and very little showmanship. Boring.

We left and decided to try the Desert Bar that we’d heard about. Customers have to drive five miles off the highway on a pretty rough dirt road to get there. We thought there was quite a bit of traffic for such a rough road but we had no idea beforehand that, when we got to the bar, which sits by itself in the middle of the desert, there would be hundreds of cars there. The bar sprawled over three or four levels and a thousand or so people were enjoying the live rock band, which was much better than either of the blues bands back at the park.

It was so busy that, after standing in line for ten minutes, we gave up on trying to get a drink and just walked around, checking it out and listening to the band.

Pictured is the Desert Bar. I'm pretty sure it's an old mine sight. Probably never produced as much gold as it does now.

Back at our Park we thought we’d give the last blues band a chance. What a great surprise. They turned out to be called The Boogiemen Blues Band, (sorry to Wolfe and the boys in Kamloops who’ve been the Boogiemen for twenty years or so - you guys were obviously first though). The band members were from all over the country but are based in Las Vegas.
The keyboard player, Junior Brantley, who also took care of the bass work on the keyboard, used to play with the now defunct Fabulous Thunderbirds. He’s also played with Jimmy Vaughn and others. The guitar player, Chris Tofield, is a true virtuoso, who also possesses a killer, ragged-edged voice. The lead singer and harmonica player had a deep growl that matched up perfectly with the others’ voices. The sax player, Rocky Peoples, is a transplant from LA and is one of those natural entertainers who could really play but also had cool moves, and clearly loved what he was doing. The drummer was the only one who is not always a regular but drove hard and dug them a deep pocket on every tune. Loved them. You can find them at

We sat around the campfire in the evening and, in the morning, rode our bikes the four miles to Bobby D’s Drive-in for breakfast.

The same three bands were playing at the Blues fest on Sunday, but in reverse order, so we stopped on the way back from our bike ride to see The Boogiemen again. I bought one of their live concert CDs and enjoyed the shoagain. I’d hate to have to be one of those other bland bands that had to follow them.

Pictured is The Boogiemen Blues band. Hard to get a good picture at 10:30 in the morning, with the sun behind them. They were so good though.

We spent a fairly quiet afternoon but, in the evening, I jammed with some people around a campfire until midnight. One guy, named Jack, had gigged all around the country in his earlier days. He was a great story teller and a really good singer/guitar player who had tons of material.

Pictured is one of the more novel RV arrangements we've seen.

Monday morning we drove to the Desert View RV Resort at Needles, California, just an hour-and-a-half up the road from Parker. The park is actually situated on Route 66. You know you're getting old when things from your youth are now called historic - as in Route 66.

It was plenty hot out so we dipped in the unheated and very chilly pool at the park while our laundry went round...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

London Bridge and Drum Tracks…

On Wednesday we decided to book a couple more days at La Paz County Park because the weather’s great and there’s enough to do to keep us occupied around here.

We actually spent a fairly quiet day Wednesday. First we checked out the town of Parker a little closer, which didn’t take long. After quick stops at Safeway and Wal-Mart, we spent the rest of the day walking, riding our bikes and hanging out reading.

I was invited to a bluegrass jam that night but didn’t go on account of it was blue grass. Janice asked why and I said, “Let’s go by, but listen as we approach and you’ll here the bass going, doonk, doonk, doonk, doonk, doonk, doonk doonk, doonk, in a steady rhythm.” Sure enough, that’s exactly what we heard - boring for a drummer, and not much there to improvise with.

On Thursday we got up early and headed for Buckskin Mountain State Park where we hiked pretty well all the trails.

Pictured is the Colorado River from Buckskin Mountain. Also pictured, yes Rhelda, you were right, this is a Beavertail cactus. A Prickly Pear Cactus blooms yellow.

We returned home for a shower and then went to Indian Island State Park, just up the road, where we had a picnic lunch before driving on to Lake Havasu.

Lake Havasu is famous for a couple of reasons.
One: It’s where the London Bridge was relocated back in 1971. Yes, the real London Bridge was dismantled, piece by piece, and shipped to the desert, immediately making lake Havasu a viable community.

Pictured is the London Bridge, spanning a channel of Lake Havasu.

Two: It’s a favourite Spring Break destination for thousands of college students from around the country.

Pictured are a couple of shots of some spring breakers enjoying the sunshine. I know that both Sam and Bill have been waiting the entire eleven months for some titillating pictures such as these. There you go boys…

I went again to Buckskin at dusk to take another picture of the red rocks there, pictured below.

Thursday was sunny and bright again. We discovered there’s a car show and Blues Fest right here at our park on Saturday and Sunday so we booked ourselves in until Monday.

On Friday we drove an hour to Quartzite, a favourite site for RV’rs and especially for those who want to dry camp in the desert, usually rock hounding. We had really good pizza at Silly Bill's Saloon. Quartzite is also known for being like one big flea market, partially pictured below.

Russ, one of the musicians in our park flagged me down, saying, “I hear you’re a drummer.” I replied in the affirmative and he said come and look at this. He has an entire mobile recording set-up in his motor home. He’d recorded some tunes with some of the other players in the park and asked me if I’d be interested in laying down a drum track on the boogie tune. I agreed and, after we got back from quartzite I played around with his drum machine a little and then suggested we just record live with the Cajon instead. He agreed and after a couple of takes we had it. It sounded good but I suggested we add an open Hi-hat from the drum machine. It turned out sounding really good.

We tried adding brushes, played on the Cajon, to a slower song but weren’t getting the result we wanted so, tomorrow, we’re going to try it with the brushes on his banjo case instead, which has more of a textured surface and should pick up the swishing sound better.

When I got back from Russ’ Janice decided to take a dip in the river, which is about 50 degrees. Yikes!

Pictured are a couple of dusk-time shots from our park, just after Janice’s swim.

In the evening we lit a fire and then went to join Russ and his friends at their campfire. It turns out they don’t just play bluegrass and had some great vocals going. We only caught a couple of tunes but I may jam with them tonight. We’ll see how we all feel after the all-day Blues Fest.

I hear music. Off to the Blues Fest...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Moon and Buckskin

On Saturday we biked around Palm Desert and then visited some of the high end art galleries there where we saw lots of intriguing stuff.

Pictured is another of the entrances to one of the gated communities in Palm Desert.

Rebecca, (the Seattle realtor) came and invited us to dinner but Janice already had some Thai food on the go so Rebecca joined us instead. We lit a fire and another couple from Oregon joined us to watch the huge moon come over the horizon. Skies were clear so everything was brilliantly illuminated until we turned in at midnight.

Sunday morning was cloudy so we decided to head east again. Destination Parker, Arizona. It was an hour on the I-10 to Desert Center - nothing more than an abandoned gas station and a café. Despite the greasy spoon appearance of the café we decided to try it for lunch. Inside, everyone was seated at the large coffee shop style bar so we took the last two seats at the end. We split a Rueben Sandwich and a Cheeseburger on Rye. They were really good.

Pictured is the abandoned gas station at Desert Center.

Another hour along Route 177 and we were at the Del Rio RV Resort in Big River California, across the Colorado River and about five miles from Parker. As soon as we started setting up Janice said she could hear a leak in one of the trailer tires. I couldn’t hear it at all and told her she was imagining things.

Pictured is the Colorado River in front of our campsite. That’s Arizona on the left, California on the right.

It was laundry day so we set it to spinning while we went for a walk. I checked the tire when we got back. It looked to be fine.

Pictured are our neighbours' grape lights.

In the morning the tire was flat. We called AAA and it was removed and the spare put on, all within a half hour. Nice.

Pictured is the AAA guy removing the wheel.

We dropped the tire off at a tire store in Parker and told him we’d be back tomorrow morning so that they could put it back on the trailer.

Driving up the 95 we went to have a look at Buckskin Mountain State Park, to see if they would have any space for us. We knew it was a beautiful spot, with lots of good hiking trails, because we’d been there many years ago. They told us we’d have to check tomorrow morning as the reservations are booked months in advance, but that they do keep a few spots for drop-ins like us. Along the way we saw another county park that operates the same way so, we’ll see tomorrow which one we end up at.

We went for lunch at The Crossroads Café in Parker, which was packed. Again, it was what you’d expect to find in an American small town. We weren’t disappointed.

Back at the park we went for a long walk. We had been woken up in the morning by a bunch of different bird calls. I guess they liked the rain that had fallen in the night because they were really making a racket. It turned out that the noisiest of the bunch were the Yellow Headed Blackbirds, pictured below.

There’s a Great Horned Owl that lives in one of the trees right beside the river at this park but, while we’ve heard him, we haven’t been able to spot him yet.

After picking up our repaired tire, we ended up at the La Paz County Park on the Arizona side if the river. We got a spot right on the river and it even has cable TV, all for $22.

This is the first area we’ve been where the summer season is reportedly much busier than the winter season, which means that this wouldn’t be a bad place to purchase a property that could be rented during the summertime and used by us in the winter. The Colorado River, which is the big draw, must be packed with fishers, water skiers, jet skis and swimmers in the summertime. The river is wide and deep here, and surprisingly clear and inviting. Right now it’s pretty quiet.

We rode our bikes up to Buckskin State Park and, along the way, snooped around some of the private resorts as well.

Pictured is the Colorado River at a bar just north of our campsite. While it’s quiet now, come summer it’ll be a gong show. Also pictured are: a resort on the California side of the river and, a wild burro

Later in the afternoon we took a circle drive to the Parker Dam, to Parker and back to our park. There’s a sign across the river from our park advertising new waterfront homes so we went to have a look-see. The show home had a sign saying the realtor could be reached at a certain number but the patio door was wide open so we went in and had a look. The new, manufactured, waterfront, 1,200 square foot, 3 bed, 3 bath home, with a double carport and large covered deck, goes for $99,000.00. This is in a resort-type setting - we never found out what the annual fees were, but if they’re anything like most parks we’ve been staying at, they’d be $2,500.00 to $3,000.00 a year.

Don't worry JR, we won't buy one.

While Janice was starting dinner I drove up to Buckskin to get a few pictures of the red rock but they’ve fenced it off since last time we were here, so I only got the one picture below.

After dinner we sat around the fire and watched the river go by.

This morning, Wednesday, is sunny and bright. The plan is to take a hike at Buckskin…

Saturday, March 19, 2011

La Quinta, Palm Springs and Joshua Tree

Except for the enormous Algodones Dunes we passed through, not far from Yuma, on the California side, the drive to La Quinta, just south of Palm Springs, is not all that spectacular. Granted, it was pretty hazy. The Sultan Sea sat like a flat, dull mirror on the floor of the Coachella Valley, with nothing better to reflect than an equally dull sky.

The shapes and colours as we approached the Santa Rosa Mountains were a welcome contrast.

The cities of La Quinta, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City and Palm Springs are all situated inside the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. All have meticulously maintained, flowered boulevards that separate passersby from gated communities. The speed limit on all the roads is fifty or fifty-five miles an hour because the enormous gated complexes require few driveways. The snow-capped mountains provide sharp contrast to the palms and flowers in the valley bottom.

Pictured is one of the entrances to these wealthy gated communities. Most of the others are equally grand.

At this time of year RV sites in the area are expensive and hard to come by. Luckily for us we found Cahuilla Lake Civic Park where, using our Passport America, we paid just $11 a night. The first night there, because the lake side of the park was full, we were situated in the equestrian section, away from the lake. We never encountered any horse people though. Instead, we sat around the fire with two citified couples; one from Pitt Meadows, the other from Prince George.

Pictured is the equestrian campsite and then the lakeside campsite where we moved to the next day at Cahuilla Lake.

On Tuesday morning we got to move to the lake side of the park and then we took a tour of downtown La Quinta. After an unmemorable lunch at Red Robin, we went to spend the night with Robyn and Dale - the same couple that we visited at Key West. They’re renting a high-end house in one of those huge gated communities. It has three bedrooms, four baths and a separate casita, where we stayed. The house also has a huge gourmet kitchen, fourteen foot ceilings, is richly decorated and is situated on the PGA endorsed Legends West golf course.

When we got there, Dale was out playing championship level Bridge so Janice, Robyn and I hung around the pool and compared stories. She had very recently attended Charlie’s service in Vancouver so there was lots to talk about.

Pictured is the eighty-five degree saline pool at Robyn and Dales’ rental, with Robyn and Janice barely visible in the background.

When Dale got home Janice made some Guacamole to accompany cocktails on the deck. Later, Dale cooked Ribs while Janice made a Mixed Greens, Blue Cheese, Pecan and Red Onion Salad. Dale quick-fired some asparagus on the BBQ and I popped some red wine. Fine.

After dinner Dale and I were enjoying some of his excellent Scotch while the girls tucked into a nice bottle of white wine. Dale is extremely sharp and is obviously a very astute business man. He was having none of any mention of Zeitgeist, Jekyll Island or anything else that suggested the government wasn’t in full control though. He sees any of that stuff as pure nonsense. We had to agree to disagree.

Still, the visit was great. Thanks Dale and Robyn for the hospitality and the cool digs.

On Wednesday morning we walked the three-and-a-half miles around Cahuilla Lake and then took a tour of the towns between La Quinta and Palm Springs. We stopped for a late lunch at a Thai restaurant in Banning and then took the Freeway back home.

In the evening Janice and I sat around the campfire, trying to plan where to go next.

On Thursday we took a drive through the Santa Rosa Mountains and San Bernadino Forest. It was sunny and hot but, even with the constant wind that blew all day, it was thick with smog. Los Angeles is just ninety miles away.

We stopped at a lookout for lunch, and followed the Cahuilla Indian interpretive trail, before driving to the town of Hemmet. I never took any pictures all day because they would have been too hazy. It’s supposed to rain a little tomorrow so, hopefully, it will clear some of the smog. Should have got some pictures of the snow capped mountains the first day, when it was clear -something of a rarity I‘ suspecting.

Later, as Janice was preparing dinner by the fire, a gentle old Greyhound dog wandered into our campsite. Her owner, who turned out to be Rebecca, a thirty-seven-year-old real estate agent from Seattle, showed up a minute later.

Apparently Rebecca and her husband share different interests. She was RV’ing on her own. Interesting - especially for someone her age, who looks more like a librarian than an outdoors kind of person. She explained that she was searching for some kind of new start in her life. Since the real estate market has pretty well tanked in Seattle she figured it was an opportune time to make a change.

After weighing a few options, much to the dismay of all her family and friends, she bought herself a used trailer, a truck, and decided to hit the road for a month. Granted, traveling alone would make things quite a bit more difficult. It would be much harder to navigate, to back up and especially to hook up because the driver needs to back up to an exact spot in order for the hitch to couple - this could easily be a minor accident waiting to happen. On the other hand, the dangers that her friends and family most fear are most likely unfounded.

We invited her to share our dinner and then sat around the campfire until midnight. She plans to continue on to Arizona so we had lots of tips for her.

Pictured is Rebecca and her dog, Cassie, that she rescued about seven years ago from a race track near Portland.

On Friday we explored Joshua Tree National Monument. We approached the park from the south end and after twenty or so miles we thought we must have been missing something - it looked to us like just a bunch more scrubby desert.

Where the Mojave Desert starts though, everything changes. Massive granite boulders weigh on the landscape. Their shapes are limited only to your vision and imagination. The full moon is slated for tomorrow, Saturday, Apparently it’s going to be the largest in the sky since 1994 and it’s supposed be about thirty per cent brighter than normal. This would be such a cool place to see it.

Pictured are some of the massive boulders at White Tank campsite in Joshua Tree Monument.

At about the same time as we came upon the boulders, we saw our first Joshua Tree. The trees, which are actually part of the Lily family, cover the desert in a, (by our standards) sparse but uniform forest. The trees and the boulders form a very unique landscape. We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Pictured is a Joshua Tree and, by happenstance, a woman rock climber.

We’re booked in here until Sunday and we’re not yet sure of our direction from then on…

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Week of the Six Degrees.

Thursday was the hottest day yet. The thermometer reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We had gone to Old Yuma to check out the Farmer’s Market, but we had the wrong day - it’s on Tuesdays - so we strolled around and toured the Yuma Arts Centre and a couple of galleries instead.

After spending an hour around the pools we met Ed and Monika for beers at the Mine Shaft Pub. A bunch of other people from Comox/Courtenay joined us. Ian and Donna, whom we’d met before and who returned with us to Ed and Monika’s for Tacos, as well as a half dozen older retired military guys who all come down every winter and stay at the Travel Lodge Motel. Funny old guys.

We’d been hanging around with Ed and Monika since we’ve been here. It finally came up in conversation, on the day before they left, that that Ed had won $487,000.00 in The 6/49 a few years ago. He had split the grand prize of almost five million with nine other co-workers. I mentioned that Ed and I had attended St. Edmunds School together so many years ago. It gets mentioned again because it ties into the Six Degrees Theme this week.

Pictured below are: Ed and Monika inside their new fifth wheel and, us with Ed, Monika, Donna and Ian.

Friday was hotter yet - in the low 90‘s. It was a pretty lazy day. We scrounged around for some firewood, went to Wal-Mart for a few things and then, on the advice of one of our adopted daughters, Michelle (Collins) Blatchford, visited with Brian and Shirley at the Foothills RV Resort.

Michelle knew Brian because they had both been SeaSpan employees. Brian has since retired and spends the winters here in Yuma. We played Nickels with them and some of their friends for an hour or two. It turned out that Brian knew a very good friend of ours, Terry Jordan, from North Van. Also, one of their friends at the table turned out to be a woman named Glenda, whom had gone to nursing school with an acquaintance of ours from Barriere, Betty Uppenborn. Small world.

We ‘adopted’ Michelle, at her request, twelve, or so, years ago when she was about twenty-four. Michelle liked to party with us, but because of our age differences, Janice and I were just that much more responsible than she was. For that reason she ended up calling us Mom and Dad.

Soon after Michelle’s adoption came our second daughter, Crystal (Patton) Makill. Hanging around the pool the other day we got talking to an older gent who turned out to be Crystal’s husband, Jim’s, Grandfather. Smaller world.

On Saturday morning we went to the annual Lettuce Festival in Old Yuma, a celebration of the first crops of the year. There are celebrity chefs, cooking contests and music as well as agriculture and food displays. We shopped around a little, got our share of free lettuce, and watched a young Mexican kid who couldn’t speak English beat an older woman in the Dinner Date Contest - basically a cook-off between two people, using Dates. His was Shrimp wrapped in Bacon with a Date and Red Chile Dipping Sauce.

Janice bought some fresh Dates when we were in Dateland. She stuffs each Date with Boursin Cheese and a sprig of Basil. Very good.

Pictured at the Lettuce Festival are: One of the booths with food for sale. Chef Ray Duey demonstrating the art of vegetable and fruit carving and, Amy Finley, the Third Season Winner of The Next Food Network Star.

We went for lunch at Lute’s Saloon in Old Yuma. It’s famed for good food, as well as being the oldest billiards room in Arizona. The business was begun in 1901 and is still operated by the same family. Next door is an historic theatre which accounts for a lot of movie memorabilia adorning Lute's. The overall theme is very eclectic. There's a foot crashing through the ceiling next to where a monster fish hangs with a big old doll’s head sticking out of it's mouth. A signed Marilyn Munroe poster dominates one wall while Superman crashes through another. There are some very good oil paintings of nudes, by different artists, mixed among the clutter, as well as pretty well anything else that’s either old or eye catching.

Pictured are a couple of shots inside Lute’s Saloon.

It was really hot in the afternoon so we hung around the pools and then dodged the heat by watching the fourth episode of Survivor on the internet, that we’d missed on TV last Wednesday.

Sunday was sunny and hot again. We headed for Algadonez one last time.

Monday, we pulled up stakes, Palm Springs bound.

Bill Lyle isn’t going to be able to make our tentative hiking arrangement because instead, he claims, he has too much prowess in the bedroom that still needs exercising.

Last night all you West Coasters sprang ahead. Arizona and Saskatchewan are the only state/province that don't change so, we're on the same time as y'all now...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Authentic Mexican and Castle Dome

On Tuesday morning, after Janice had completed her fifty laps of the pool, we returned to Algadonez, Mexico, so that Janice could try out some authentic Mexican food from some of the street vendors, outside the tourist area.

Walking, just a block outside the tourist area, we discovered a bakery with all kinds of exotic breads and sweets that we were unfamiliar with. The owner spoke no English. We ended up with two small loaves of the fluffiest white bread I may ever have eaten.

A couple of blocks further and we found four street vendors lined up beside the community park. Only locals were eating there. The first vendor served only beef tacos and, again, spoke no English. The tacos were really good, served with grilled green onions and a grilled Anaheim Pepper - $1.50 each.

Pictured is Janice with her Beef Taco.

Janice was determined to find Head Tacos and she didn’t have to look far because that’s what the third vendor was offering. They are a staple of a Mexcian diet. The whole cow's head is slow-cooked for hours. I was too timid to order one. When I saw him dig around in the pot for a choice piece though, I was pretty sure it was Cheek. It looked good and, when the vendor confirmed it was Cheek, I agreed to try it. Janice hummed all the way through hers. Cost - $1.00.

Back in the tourist area we saw a lineup for a taco stand that was serving Fish or Shrimp Tacos exclusively. We split one of each there, again $1.50 each, and then went back to the familiar Paraiso Plaza to share a shrimp cocktail, accompanied by two Margueritas.

Pictured is Tim at the 'safer' taco stand in Algadonez, tucking into a Fish Taco and, Janice, who couldn’t have been happier, having tried out the real deal in Mexico. The shrimp cocktail is what we’d call Ceviche.

Apparently Charlie's Service went very well on Saturday back in North Van. Thanks to my old friend Poppy for delivering our messages for us. I'm told she did us proud. We thought it fitting that we were watching Beatlemania while the service took place.

On Wednesday we took a drive to Castle Dome, which is both a mountain and a ghost town. taking Highway 95, through the US Air Force Yuma Proving Ground, we saw a couple of large explosions. Presumably the Air Force testing munitions. Turning off the 95 at Mile 55, we drove another eleven miles on gravel to the ghost town, which we skipped, saving the $12 entrance fee. We’ve already seen a couple of mining ghost towns. We kept driving up a narrow 4x4 road until we hit a steep wash and decided it was a good picnic spot.

Pictured below are: Some desert cacti, including a Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom, with the Castle Dome in the background and, us at our picnic spot.

On the way back we turned west, through The Proving Ground, to Martinez Lake. It has been developed so much in the past thirteen years that we didn’t recognize any of the places that we sometimes used to take our Border Collie, Boots, for swims.

Pictured is Janice at Martinez Lake. The Castle Dome is visible way in the background.

In the evening Janice made Thai Turkey Patties and Thai Salad and then neighbours, Ed and Monika from Comox, joined as at the campfire. They have to start the journey home on Saturday.


Our old friend Al Harlowe, from the band Prism, got a nice surprise the other day when the Space Shuttle Crew was wakened by the Prism song, Space Ship Superstar. Congratulations Al. Hopefully it leads to some new-found exposure. And royalties!


I'm happy to report that, three days after eating at the street vendors outside Algadonez, we're suffering no ill effects...