Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hanging out in Quartzsite

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  Tony caught a really bad cold. He’s had chicken soup for four meals in a row! One of the rubber tramps went to town and picked up some cold medicine for him (nice people here – thanks!) but we’re not going anywhere for awhile.

In the meantime we’re sitting up here on BLM, a little elevated from town and the views are great!

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Quartzsite, Arizona

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   Quartzsite is more an experience than a place. Most of the year this little desert town has a population of less than 4,000 people but every winter over a million visitors arrive. Many come for cheap or even free camping on government land. Others come for the RV and mineral shows or to browse through the acres of vendors at the swap meets.
Every winter thousands of Rvers head to south western Arizona.009
  One of the reasons that we came this year was to attend the Third Annual Winter Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. We arrived on the last day and missed all of the morning seminars but we did get to meet a lot of great people including the organizer, Bob Wells.  Check out his websites for excellent information on buying and living cheaply in a van or RV.

  A big part of the RTR involves sharing information and expertise with new rubber tramps. In the photo below a flexible solar panel is being installed on the van’s roof.
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     Getting around in Quartzsite is just about impossible in a wheelchair. There are few paved areas or sidewalks. Most of the ground in the vendor areas is covered with loose gravel. The parking areas are gravel or loose sand. Even the big tent where the RV, gem and car shows take place has gravel under the carpeting. Camping on the BLM land isn’t too bad because the ground is pretty hard packed but I wouldn’t recommend visiting Quartzsite in a wheelchair unless a very energetic helper is available. Quartzsite
33.66235, -114.21764
arizona1

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saddle Mountain BLM Boondocking

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   There are four or five entrance roads off of Courthouse Road that lead onto the BLM land. We took the first entrance that we came to, the eastern most one. The ground is covered with fist sized rocks which makes finding a good spot to pull off a little hard. The land around the other roads looks like it’s sandier with smaller rocks. A quiet, peaceful spot. It should be fine for any RV but check on foot or with your car if you’re uncertain.

  Update: We boondocked at this spot a second time, about 1 1/2 mile to the west, and found it much nicer with smaller rocks on the ground and better places to pull off.
                                          
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Boondocking
33.46127, -113.03662
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Monday, January 21, 2013

Darby Wells Road – BLM Boondocking

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  This is a beautiful area with mountain views, saguaro cactus and palo verde trees. You just have to ignore the view to west of the huge copper mine tailings. The open pit  mine, located south of the little town of Ajo, has been closed since the 1980s. We were planning on visiting the mine overlook but failed to spot any signs pointing the way. There’s also a little museum that we missed. :- (

  The boondocking spots are fairly level and suitable for any size RV. If you have a large RV you may want to check the area out first with your car. There are a few really nice spots a short way in on Darby Wells Road, very close to the Route 85, but after that you’ll have to drive about a mile on badly washboarded dirt road.  Boondock 
2.34161, -112.84383
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Snyder Hill BLM Boondocking

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  An unusual little patch of BLM land, just a triangle of desert and rocky hillside, located very close to Tucson but a nice place to spend the night. Free Campsites.net visitors give this spot mixed reviews. We found it fairly quiet with only one other camper.

  There are no signs. Look for dirt entrance roads on the right off of San Joaquin Road. There are many large flat areas where any size of RV will fit. It’s dusty and may be muddy during rainy weather. Boondocking
32.15693, -111.1161732
arizona1

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

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   Plants and animals native to the Senora desert are grouped together in their natural habitats and connected by winding paths with stunning views of saguaro cactus against a background of hazy mountain ranges. Two or three hours are needed to see everything but plan on more time to see the special demonstrations.

  About half of the paths are paved but some areas have ramps that are a little too steep. The entire museum is located on a slope so it’s necessary to go downhill and back up to complete the paved loop. The unpaved loop, which is about 1/2 mile, can be completed with some assistance. Some of the short unpaved connecting paths are soft and hard to push along. Most of the plants and animals are easily viewed.

The parking area for RVs is large and has some pull-through spaces.  Museum
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Desert Diamond Casino, Nogales

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  With a seven day stay limit, this casino lot made a great overnight home for our visit to Tucson. Just follow the RV parking signs to the back lot. Security may stop on their rounds and issue a hang tag. There’s some traffic noise from the highway but little  traffic goes through this out of the way lot. An occasion train passes by and very infrequently jets are routed directly over the lot.

  It’s fairly easy but a little bit of a hike to get to the casino. Enter through the hotel and follow the hallway past the convention center and into the casino. The chairs are very easy to move, the carpeting is low pile and the card and money slots are easy to reach. Casino
32.11575, -110.96215
arizona1

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pima Air & Space Museum

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   More than 300 aircraft, including some very usual, rare and one-of- kind planes, are housed in 5 hangers and lined up on 80 acres outside. The displays are short on information but the staff, most whom seemed to be retired air force, are extremely knowledgeable. Many air museums are free because they’re government owned and run but this one is private so there’s an admissions fee, kind of high at $15.50. The tram tour of the grounds, if you don’t want to walk it, has an additional fee.
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  The museum also gives bus tours of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), located on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG, also known as the boneyard, is where all of the excess US military and government aircraft are stored. It’s cool to see hundreds of planes lined up across the sand but the tour is a bit dull. You can see the planes from the surrounding streets and skip the tour unless you’re a real airplane affectionato.
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     The hangers are fairly accessible. A paved path leads from hanger 1 to hangers 3 and 4. The outside display area is packed sand with a few soft areas. It’s not hard to push across but the area to see is so large that it’s a good idea to have a helper. The tram tour car isn’t wheelchair accessible.The space museum has many written display cards which are laid flat and therefore hard to read. The AMARG tour requires advance notice for an accessible bus. Make sure that the driver secures the wheelchair correctly because the bus travels a few miles on city streets before entering the base and slowing down. We’ve found that drivers are not always familiar with the right procedures and don’t understand the necessity of securing a wheelchair.

   Parking for RVs is located in a large sandy lot across from the museum’s main entrance door. Museum
   32.13862, -110.86887
arizona1

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reid Park Zoo

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   The zoo is fairly small but well laid out with roomy enclosures for the animals and plenty of trees for summertime shade. The newest addition, Expedition Tanzania, is a very large habitat for a five member elephant family but, with the unusual cold spell, none of the elephants were out.

  The zoo is very accessible with wide smooth paths and many viewing areas where the animals are easy to see.
 The parking lot is large enough for any RV.   Zoo
  32.2082, -110.91998

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mission San Xavier del Bac

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   Built over a period of 14 years with native labor, the mission was finished in 1797 and continues to be the religious center for the Tohono O'odham Native Americans.The interior is beautiful!  Colorful paintings, frescos, plaster moldings, carvings and statues were completely restored in the 1990s. The mission is opened to tour except during masses or other services. There’s also a small museum and a gift shop on the grounds.

  There aren’t any steps in the church just a few short, slightly sloped ramps. The museum and gift shop are also very accessible. The last room of the museum has steps but can be viewed by entering through the exit doorway. Paved walkways lead from the parking lot to the church entrance.

  There are several large lots with plenty of room for any RV. Mission
  32.10664, -111.00731
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pancho Villa State Park Campground and Museum

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  During the Mexican revolution (1910- 1920 ) several different groups were fighting for control of the government. One of the revolutionaries, Pancho Villa, led his men across the border on March 9,1916 and raided a small US army base and the town of Columbus. The object of the raid is not entirely clear. It may have been to secure arms and supplies, it may have been in retaliation for US support to his rival Carranza or perhaps a combination of both.

  Eight soldiers, ten civilians and about seventy five of Villa’s men were killed during the raid. The US beefed up the base with 10,000 more men and General Pershing led soldiers into Mexico seeking Poncho Villas trail. Villa was never caught and the army withdrew when the US entered WWI but this expedition was good training for the troops using new types of equipment. This was the first time that the US army used trucks for carrying supplies and planes for reconnaissance.

  Pancho Villa State Park is located on the old army base. The customs house is now the visitor center where a short video and good displays explain the revolution and Villa’s raid. A few adobe buildings and concrete foundations are scattered around the campground.

  The visitor center is all accessible.  A short trail to the top of a hill is inaccessible due to loose gravel. Most of the old historic structures can be seen without exiting your vehicle. The campground has one accessible RV site. It’s completely paved with an accessible table and accessible hookups but does not have access to the restroom which is a good distance away. Many of the other sites are accessible enough to be used by a person in a wheelchair.

  The campground has tent only, water hookup only, and water and electric hookups sites plus a dump station. Most of the sites are large enough for any RV. Park
31.8272, -107.6422
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino

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  This casino is in New Mexico but since it’s right across the Texas border it’s a good place to stay while visiting El Paso. It has a small section of parking lot camping spaces with water and electric. All the spaces were filled when we visited and most of the campers seemed to be settled in for awhile but dry camping is permitted – plenty of room in the lot. A dump station is located by the horse barns.

  The casino isn’t very easy to get to in a wheelchair. The entrance is a good distance from the RV parking and the last section is a steep uphill. Most of the machines have easy to use money slots. The chairs are a bit heavy to move out of the way. Casino
31.80602, -106.56209
texas1

El Paso Holocaust Museum

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   Like the other museums that we visited in El Paso, this one is on the small side. Even so the exhibits are very well done. By watching short videos in each section, visitors follow the story of Hitler’s rise, the horrendous treatment of the Jewish people in the ghettos, the horrors of the concentration camps, the liberation of the camps, and the search for a new home. The final room features interviews with some of the survivors. Parts of the displays are graphic so I wouldn’t recommend taking young children to the museum.

  Most of the museum is accessible. A separate doorway allows the box car, which has steps, to be bypassed. Several doors are very heavy.

  The museum has a small parking lot. Large RVs may be able to be parked lengthwise across the spaces if the museum isn’t busy. Museum
31.76203, -106.4923
texas1

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

El Paso Museum of Art

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   Very interesting art in this small museum! The permanent collections include 12th- 18th century European art, Mexican religious art, southwestern US art and contemporary art so there’s quite a variety. 

   Everything is accessible.

   Parking is limited so we parked a few blocks north in front of the El Paso Museum of History. Most of the curb cuts are good but it’s a bit of an uphill on the return trip. Museum
31.75874, -106.49072
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El Paso Museum of History

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  This is a fairly small museum with four galleries. The main gallery on the second floor contains permanent displays covering the history of El Paso. Two other galleries have changing exhibits. The forth gallery was under construction during our visit.

   The museum is accessible but some of the exhibit cases are too high for easy viewing of all of the artifacts. The sidewalks to the entrance are patterned to look like rock and are very bumpy.

  Metered parking is available along the street in front of the museum. RVs will fit, using several spaces.  Museum
31.75981, -106.49178
texas1

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Prada Store

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   About 1 1/2 miles east of the tiny town of Valentine, Texas, in the middle of very desolate scrub desert, is a Prada store complete with shoes and purses! Pushing on the door won't get you anywhere though because it’s actually a sculpture. It’s easy to zip right past it so keep your eyes on the south side of the highway. It’s worth a stop just for the oddness of it. "Store"
30.60347, -104.51832
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