Arizona - 2006 (Eastbound) 

Updated: 11/30/08

Quartzsite - Desert Camping

Commemorative Air Force - Arizona Wing

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Saguaro (Cactus) National Park - West

On the road . . .


Quartzsite - Desert Camping


Anyone who reads RV magazines knows about Quartzsite, Arizona. Several articles have detailed the story of thousands of RVers who spend their winter in the Quartzsite area. The communities they develop. Returning to the same camping area year after year.



k a quartz hhll middle 046.JPG (26390 bytes)That is our HHII in the middle of the photograph. We were in Quartzsite on October 31. Well ahead of the people arriving to spend the winter.

k a quartz solar 034.JPG (15867 bytes)We say that -  but, the two Canadian couples next to us were in Arizona for the winter. They were solar ready for the winter sun.







The campground we used is called  "Hi Jolly" and has a 14-day limit. Other public land campgrounds (operated by the U. S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management) have 30, 60 or 90-day limits with permit. The campground host told us that later in the winter, it would be difficult to find a spot to park your RV in "Hi Jolly". When your 14 days is up, you can leave for 25 days and return or move between the types of sites if a spot was available. There are no hookups, water or dump in desert camping. All are available in town. In addition, there are many private campgrounds with hookups - for a fee.



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k a quartz clean trk 035.JPG (35760 bytes)As we sat in our chairs reading and working on the Web site, Fred noticed that the truck wash he did in  California still looked good. By the time we left Quartzsite, it was a little dusty but not as bad as the seven weeks of crud on it since leaving Michigan. 






k a quartz hhll 092.JPG (38607 bytes)One thing Mary Lou said after leaving Quartzsite indicates that we will not be spending winters camping in the desert  - "been there, done that"





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 Commemorative Air Force - Arizona Wing


j a az caf sign 012.JPG (45650 bytes)


j a az caf sj frt left 054.JPG (22515 bytes)j a b17 sticker.JPG (18779 bytes)We have a friend we camp with at South Higgins Lake State Park who, as a member of this group, can be a crew member of the B-17 bomber named the "Sentimental Journey". The plane tours the country  to be displayed at air shows and air museums. Ron has been a crew member several times. When he found out we were going to be in Arizona, he told us the plane is in Mesa for the winter. He said we had to go see it - so, we did.




Like many military planes, this one has a name and a figure painted on the nose.


j a az caf sj right 154.JPG (25363 bytes)      j a az caf sj name 159.JPG (42475 bytes)



j a az caf sj is 138.JPG (50133 bytes)Ron did not say what 'first class' luxury accommodations he had. No wonder he looks forward to each opportunity to fly in her.


The cockpit looks a little stark also.

j a az caf sj instr 111.JPG (39837 bytes)




In combat, the plane needed protection for all angles. There are guns front, rear, both sides, top and bottom. We had the privilege of speaking with a gentleman who flew 30 missions as the pilot in a plane like this during WWII. He showed us some photographs from his album, including his crew and some photographs taken by his gunner from the bubble with a brownie box camera during combat flights.


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The museum had a large hanger with several planes on display.


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Another hanger was used to restore planes. One of the planes had been in various phases of restoration for twenty years.


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The admission fee was a donation of $7 per person. Plan on spending at least two hours looking at the planes and static displays.


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Casa Grande Ruins National Monument


h a casa grd roof  043.JPG (19948 bytes)Casa Grande, named by early Spanish explorers, is an ancient building. Four stories high and 60 feet long, it is the largest structure know to exist in Hohokam times around 1150 AD.  In 1892, the Casa Grande area became our Nation's first archeological preserve, though not well protected until much later. The ruins is very fragile and is protected by a roof initially built in the 1930s. The roof has since been replaced with what we see today.




Ancient builders found construction material in the subsoil beneath their feet - caliche, a concrete-like mixture of sand, clay and limestone. They ground the rock and made a mud out of it. It took 3,000 tons of caliche mud to construct the Great House. The mud was piled in successive courses to form walls 4 feet thick at the base, tapering toward the top. Trees were brought from 60 miles away to form the ceiling and floor supports.


The four faces of Casa Grande . . . 


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It's four walls face the four point of the compass. A circular hole in the upper west wall aligns with the setting sun during the summer solstice. Other openings also align with the sun and moon at specific times. Knowing the changing positions of celestial objects meant knowing times for planting, harvest and celebrations.



There is no public access to the inside but missing exterior walls and two doorways let you peak inside.


h a casa grd  004.JPG (39130 bytes)   h a casa grd s2 is  011.JPG (34728 bytes)  h a casa grd s2 is  016.JPG (39392 bytes)   h a casa grd s3 is 021.JPG (33646 bytes)




h a casa grd model  105.JPG (31129 bytes)A model in the visitor center gives you an idea of what the inside was probably like. 







 The visitor center displayed many of the items found during archeological digs including this olla. All of the ruins have not been excavated. Many artifacts are yet to be found.


ha casa grd pot 1906  081.JPG (24470 bytes)            h a casa grd olla spot  077.JPG (30719 bytes)




Here you can see the outline and remains of other structures used by the 'neighborhood'. Casa Grande is the largest structure in this particular 'neighborhood'. 


h a casa grd walls  002.JPG (20437 bytes)      h a casa grd walls  063.JPG (34577 bytes)      h a casa grd walls 060.JPG (25416 bytes)




h a casa grd ball court  086.JPG (32512 bytes)This area that has yet to be excavated. It is this ballcourt - perhaps used for games similar to the ones the Aztecs played. Indications are they played in the indentation and the surrounding walls retained the ball in the court of play. There are usually 4 or 5  'neighborhoods' surrounding a ballcourt. An area of about 2 miles square makes up the 'community'. They have not been excavated as Casa Grande has. 





Admission to Casa Grande was $5 per person. Allow an hour to visit the grounds, view the displays and watch the video.



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Saguaro (Cactus) National Park - West


We arrived late in the day at the Saguaro National Park. The distance from I-10 was only 15 miles. But, the road was a little rough and a lot dippy. This left us less than a desirable amount of time to do the Cactus Forest Drive circle tour and the Desert Discovery walking trail that looked interesting on the park map.



g a az cactus flag 187.JPG (18160 bytes)g a az cactus shadow 223.JPG (17068 bytes)The last showing of the video was starting as we entered the lobby. The ranger said, go see the video and 'pay' later. To us, 'pay' means showing the Golden Age card. The video was great. We made a few photographs and decided to stay the night and see the park in the morning.





After the video ended, the screen was raised and this was the view out the window behind the screen.


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g a az cactus and ml 213.JPG (19053 bytes)Before we went searching for the campground, we made this photograph to show how tall some of the cacti grow.

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We set up camp before dark. This is the view from our window.  




The next morning we drove the eight mile Cactus Forest Drive. We saw cactus of all shapes, of all sizes, of all ages, of all conditions of health and some dead cactus.



g a c2 loop perfect 102.JPG (44049 bytes)We scoured the hillside all along the Cactus Forest Drive road looking for the 'perfect' cactus. The one seen in photographs - two arms the same length, with the same spread. However, it alluded us. The ranger told us it doesn't exist. This is the best we could find.

As we drove we decided we had different interest. Mary Lou was in awe at the sheer number of cacti. She appreciated the variety of shapes and sizes. Fred was interested in the cycle of life and looked for damaged, dying or dead cacti. 

Regardless of your interest, the Cactus Forest Drive is a 'must do' when you visit the park

g a c2 loop road 013.JPG (40785 bytes)We left the HHII in the visitor information parking lot. The road is not RV friendly.

            g a c2 vc hhll 001.JPG (15623 bytes)





g a c2 loop this way 033.JPG (51301 bytes)This cactus seemed to be pointing in the direction we should go. Here are some of what we saw on the loop road.


      g a c2 loop four 015.JPG (29228 bytes)      g a c2 loop arm start 006.JPG (22800 bytes)      g a c2 loop 4little 032.JPG (27852 bytes)



g a c2 loop fish bar fl 111.JPG (83160 bytes)      g a c2 loop flowers 038.JPG (31047 bytes)





Others had interesting, unusual or funny shapes.


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Whatever the cause for their demise, it is a natural event. Cacti are threatened by lightning and wind, old age, and severe droughts and humans. These have been injured. Sometimes the injuries are fatal.


g a c2 trail damage  011.JPG (96421 bytes)            g a c2 trail damage  052.JPG (47982 bytes)




This cactus looks like it fell over, withered and died. It was one of the more interesting sights alongside the loop road because it is so unusual - not in nature, but to us. We explained it to the ranger and she said it was very difficult to tell how long it was laying on the ground - it probably fell sometime this year.


            g a c2 loop d in place 068.JPG (78999 bytes)      g a c2 loop d in place 069.JPG (61886 bytes)





g a c2 trail d  061.JPG (24044 bytes)This one has died also. Does this look like a woman in a mask and a dress to anyone except Fred?







g a c2 trail d  067.JPG (22461 bytes)The stalks sticking out the top of this dead one looked different.










Many cactus seeds are produced, few result in a new cactus plant. The seeds that have the best chance of survival are those who are under 'nurse' plants. They are protected.


g a c2 trail m sm 058.JPG (114092 bytes)      g a c2 trail m med  094.JPG (93928 bytes)      g a c2 trail m lg 096.JPG (90169 bytes)




g a c2 trail split  074.JPG (40662 bytes)This dead cactus was split open and we could see inside where the water had been stored in the spongy flesh of the trunk and branches.     

            g a c2 trail split  083.JPG (73329 bytes)





In the Saguaro National Park, a wet desert, size and age relationships of cactus are approximately as follows:

                                    Height:              Age in years:

                                    1 inch                   6 - 7

                                    1 foot                    17

                                    3 feet                     26

                                    6.5 feet                  36
                                    & flowers

                                    15 - 18 feet           55 - 60

                                    46 feet                    173

At about 75 years it may sprout its first branches, or arms. The branches begin as prickly balls, then extend out and upward. Saguaros that live 150 years or more attain the grandest sizes, towering 50 feet and weighing 8 tons. These are the largest cacti in the United States.


Admission to the park was $7 per person. 


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On the road . . .


e a mesa downtown 103.JPG (18820 bytes)

Mesa, AZ has landscaped their freeways.

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A church in Mesa



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e a az cotton field 150.JPG (51748 bytes)           e a az rd3 cotton bale 016.JPG (20817 bytes)

Cotton field and cotton bale the size of a semi-trailer



Cactus can be seen along the road.

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Dust storm . . .



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City initial on mountains . . .


Rest area sign . . .

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We see a lot of container trains in the southwest. 

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