A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Taking a Dirt Road to Organ Pipe Cactus N.M.


Why, Arizona

There is a road sign just outside of town showing that Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to be four miles ahead.  I thought: Four miles, I can ride that on the motorbike and get a few photos of the cactus for my followers on the blog.

I rode out to the entrance of the camp area and picked up this track heading south.  The dirt road hugged a barbed wire fence.  Just a hundred feet more to the left is Highway 85 to Mexico, 25 miles away.

A mile and a half later the dirt track petered out.

I parked the bike and walked on ahead through a thicket of brush to see what was going on.  
No more road.  I turned back for the bike.  When I got there I realized my socks and boots were now full of little tiny stickers from that brush or grasses.  Great!  Just great!

So much for my wonderful idea.  
As I tried to brush away all those tiny stickers from my socks I noticed this abandoned backpack under the barbed wire fence.  I thought about the illegal migrants passing through here.  At this point they have traveled twenty-five miles from the border.  I wondered what their socks looked like.
Point to note: that footprint in the above photo is not mine.

As I pulled away I saw this guy waving at me.
“Hi there.”

Anyway, this is an Organ Pipe Cactus, what I was wanting to get a picture of for you.
Actually, that four miles would be just to the monument boundary.
The visitor center and campground would be another fifteen miles or so.
Five miles beyond that is the U.S./Mexico border at Lukeville.

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A wash is a stream bed, or river wash.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Why We Are Here and Not There


Why, Arizona

I have a few places saved on my weather app, special places I enjoyed staying at.  Occasionally I get alerts as to the weather at these places.  Monday I received this about Ambrose, North Dakota.

Ambrose was the very small town just a few miles from the Canadian border; the little town where I explored the abandoned houses and where Arthur Strolie had lived.  After reading this I thought of those houses with the snow building up upon the roofs that were already looking to collapse.
Many of those roofs had gaping holes so that snow is building up in the attic, leaking to the floors below.

Then there was the “very cold wind chills as low as 35 degrees below zero”.
How had Arthur survived in cold like that living in that flimsy shack with no insulation?
I cannot imagine such intense cold, yet there are people living there right now.

Regarding the moldy hat, I rarely wear it.  I only carry it with me on the motorbike to have something to put on my head if I go into a store and had been wearing my helmet.  In Arizona there is no helmet law.  I have a regular wide-brim hat I wear while riding to protect my head from the sun.  Also, I ride into the town of Quartzsite on trails and dirt roads, not the streets until reaching the stores.  So really, the only time I wear the helmet is when it is cold.  In the end this works out to me putting on that “moldy” cap only a few times a year and each time is only long enough to go into the store and pick up a few groceries.  All time totaled that I wore that hat I doubt was not even an hour for the entire year.
So, can I keep my hat?  I don’t want to throw it away.  I got it while in Baja long ago.  Memories.

- comment reply -
Thank you sparklingmerlot for the kind words about how much you have enjoyed reading the eBooks.  
I am glad they are helpful in putting you to sleep each evening.
I have never camped in a wash.  I may do stupid things but I am not stupid.

Monday, December 5, 2022

On Being Stupid


Gunsight Wash, Why, Arizona

Last Saturday was all day possible off and on rain showers.  
This nonsense continued on through the night.
Eighteen hours later it was over and done with.
Sunday morning I was surprised to see there had been enough water flowing in our little wash next to camp that you can see the grasses bent over nearly a a foot high.

I walked over to Gunsight Wash to see what occurred there.
It looked like just a narrow twelve foot or so wide stream of water had flowed through.
Sunday was all cloudy as you can see here.  Not a bit of sunlight.

There wasn’t enough water to wash away all the leaves on the ground from this tree.
Just a narrow path.

Here you can see how much I push out the slide-out.  Just four or five inches.  All the way out is about eighteen inches.  We don’t need that much room inside.
Now typically I would close the slide-out if there is to be rain thus sealing it up tight.
This time I did not.  Oh, it’ll be alright.  Its just a few showers.  There is no wind to drive the rain in. 

Well stupid me discovered otherwise.  This whole section of carpet was wet.
All day Sunday, cold, foggy and damp (remember, no sun) I spent dealing with this.
The inside of our home looked like a dollar store with everything in a disarray.

Monday came and with it bright warm sunny skies.
Now the carpet could dry.  At one point the sun shone in directly through the door into that space.

I also discovered the bag on the side of the Honda was throughly soaked. Bungi cords, a nylon bag for carrying groceries in, a nylon bag with some tools and...that dang moldy hat that I had spent so much time cleaning.  It looked just like before!!

I had the bike covered.  Only thing is the cover is shot.  They last about a year.  The sun deteriorates it over time.  I have a new one I bought last year.  I just was going to wait until we got back to traveling before using it and throwing this one away.  I also have a canvas tarp I cover the bike with when it is supposed to rain.  I didn’t get it out.  Stupid move number two and three.
 Notice holes and cracks.

Lessons learned:  Always close the slide-out even if just a “shower”.  Put the new bike cover into action while wintering in the desert; don’t wait until underway again.  And use the damn canvas tarp when the bike is off the rack.  Finally, store the moldy hat in my vest, not the saddle bag.

See, you’re never to old too learn things.  It is just remembering what you learned that is the problem.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Scouting and Shopping


Ajo, Arizona (pop. 3039)

Before the rain day set it in on Saturday we left camp to drive the ten miles north to Ajo.

Ajo is a pretty cool town, kind of artsy with murals scattered about.
If our stay here continues on as I think it might, we may relocate to Darby Well Road just outside of Ajo where we have stayed before.  Then I would be able to ride the Honda into town on dirt backroads for shopping and photograph some of the murals for you.  But for now, I had things to do.

I had trash, unburnable trash, to dispose of.  Mainly flattened cat food tins and soda pop cans.
I slowly drove through town looking for an unguarded dumpster.  None were to be had.
First stop, Family Dollar.

Around the side I found my dumpster.  Cool.
It’s such a good feeling getting ride of trash.
Inside the store was the typical dollar store of chaos and disarray. 

Next door was this shop.  Did you think RadioShack was no more?
I saw online that this was a drop off for UPS.  I wondered if I could have a UPS package delivered here.
Inside I met the owner Tony Montes.  Nice guy.  He said I could have a package sent there for a $5 fee.
This is great.  This meant that we could now probably stay in this area all winter and not go to Quartzsite.
We’ll see how things go.

The other thing I was looking for was an unguarded water faucet.  We would need to fill the water tank in our home eventually.  Also, where to get purified filter drinking water.  I saw a couple drinking water stations driving through town. I used this one in the back of the Chevron station.
Twenty-five cents a gallon.  In the back by the parked cars.
I went ahead and filled two jugs not knowing if the grocery store had a water machine.

Across the street I saw a grocery store, not the one I was planning on going to but I’d try it out.  
[It turned out to be the only grocery store in Ajo.  I was thinking there was one near the plaza.  Nope]
It is always a bit of concern when a grocery store is part of a hardware store.  Inside it was okay with the produce section kind of minimal.  The lady in front of me at the checkout, her total was $206.  I think she had around five bags of groceries.  My goodness!  Food costs enough as it is but being remote out here, these poor people have to pay much higher prices with less selection.  Their closest big shopping opportunity is an hour and a half drive away, 90 miles north to Buckeye outside of Phoenix.
There is a Walmart there.
There was another water machine in the store parking lot.  I’ll use it next time. It looked newer and nicer.

I still was searching for a place to get water for our home.  I would try the city park but couldn’t figure out how to get to it.  I drove by the cemetery.  The grass was bone dry dead.  I didn’t even go in.  I figured I might have to go to a private campground and most likely pay if they even let me fill without being a guest.  Before leaving town I pulled in behind this building to pause and see how to get to a nearby rest area.  There in back (I didn’t want to be taking pictures of them) were this old couple from Canada with a small travel trailer.  There had been camped down a way from us at Why.  They were hooking up their hose to a water faucet.  I got out to talk with the lady.  Turned out they were members of this humanitarian organization so I respected that and wouldn’t fill here.  She did tell me I could get water at the Shell station in town.  “That is usually where we have always got our water.  Three dollars.”  That was great to hear.  I’d gladly pay three dollars even if it would be the first time I ever paid to fill up The Little House on the Highway.  This was the last piece of the puzzle.  We could most definitely stay in this area all winter now.  If this goes well I think I can say we are done with Quartzsite.
Just don’t hold me to that.

Here’s the corker in talking with the woman.  When I said I saw them back at Gunsight Wash she said they are heading back home to British Columbia.  “My goodness, its freezing cold there now!” I exclaimed.
“Oh were just going for Christmas.  We’re coming back afterwards.”
I just stood there, speechless.

- comment replies -
Nope, I don’t make my own soup.  Open a can.  But I get the good stuff, Amy’s for example.
And ladies please, you think I would buy a hat from a thrift shop after someone else had been wearing it?  
No way! 
I did consider saving the patch and adding it to another cap I have.  I thought I’d try the cleaning first.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Moldy Hat and Soup


Why, Arizona

When I unloaded the Trail 90 I discovered the ball cap I keep in the side pouch got mold over the year.  Some days these past eight months were rainy and damp and I guess it got in the pouch.  
I keep this cap in there for sometimes if I wear my helmet, 
I have something the wear when I go into a store.

That’s pretty bad.  I thought the cap was done for.  
I decided I’d try to clean it for after all, what else do I have to do.

In the end it cleaned up pretty well.  I can live with that.
The hat is falling apart.  That is glue you see.
Adds character.

While the hat was soaking I thought I would burn some trash.  
I cleaned the twigs out a previous camper had left in there.
I guess what I find.

That cursed rat that chewed on Beans cord had chewed out two nearly identical pieces and placed them in the fire pit!  What on earth for?  I thought he had simply chewed the cord in two.  If he chewed away two parts you’d think he’d take them down into his burrow.

It is an overcast, sometimes rainy day as I prepare this post.
We are stuck inside.  Its a soup day.
Beans gets no sunbath today.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Walking Gunsight Wash

 Why, Arizona

Gunsight Wash just to the north of us a few hundred yards is quite wide.  
The entire area around here for ten miles is designated as a flash flood prone land.
At least the highway sign a few miles north of Why says so.

It was difficult walking being soft sand.  
I found sticking to the sides along the bank had firmer ground.

Right away I began seeing rocks that...geez, I don’t like calling her “crazy woman”.
I’ll call her Rose since this was at her camp. 

Where was I?  
Oh yeah, 

Rose had a good supply of rocks to work with thanks to flash floods bringing them down the wash.

I was coming across occasional bits of quartz also so all of that in Rose’s camp 
could have come from the wash also.
Looks like a piece that had been worked by Native Americans but I doubt it.
Too thick for a arrowhead.

Then I came across this along the bank.

I have a couple apps on the phone that identifies plants and trees by just by scanning it with your camera.
What a wonderful age we live in.

Coyote melon or Coyote Gourd
They were the size of a large orange or small grapefruit.
Fresh young ones that are green are edible.  At this stage they are not.  Very bitter.
Indians would let them dry out then the seeds inside rattled which they used in their dances.

Continuing on I was seeing signs of how intense these flash floods can be by all the debris stacked up against trees growing in the wash.  Not a place to be when the summer monsoons hit.

Then I came upon what the app identified as a Desert Thorn-apple.
I have doubts for the range of this plant didn’t seem to extend this far east.
Said it was very toxic, is used as a hallucinogenic drug which involves the inability to differentiate reality from fantasy.  I have met people like that.  Can be fatal.
Well I will not test that, doubts or no doubts.

I turned back once I reached Rose’s camp.  I had been thinking of who tried to eat the coyote melon finding out it was okay to eat when green.  And then there was the poor soul who was the first native to try out a desert-thornapple.

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Yes, I figured where the horse died is where it was buried.  But it still had to be rolled over into the hole.  Could two people roll a dead horse over?  My goodness, just digging that hole would do me in.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Crazy Woman Camp - part two


Why, Arizona

The next day I walked down to the site of Crazy Woman Camp.  I retrieved the two notepads from the container then sat on the rectangular block of stone to the right and read the notepads.  The earliest entry on the pad with the story of the woman and her son was November of 2020.  Most all of the entries were expressing how special this place was to them, many saying it had a “spiritual connection” for them.  Some mentioned items they left behind.  Most all praised the woman for the sacrifice she made for her son.  The second notepad was new with just a few entries, most recent Nov. 27, three days ago.  
I replaced the notepads then went off searching for the grave of the dog and the horse.

The dog grave was close by, easy to locate.

If 2-53 was to be believed, then we had a date when the woman and her son were here at this camp.  That is seventy years.  Would this painted lettering be this well preserved in the harsh Arizona sun for this length of time?  Had someone redone it over the years?

The story in the notepad said the horse was buried west of the gate.
I stepped over the sagging barbed wire and went looking for the grave.

About a hundred feet away I found a large mound of dirt with a weatherbeaten cross.
This has to be it.  I had questions.
How did she maneuver a dead horse into a hole in the ground.
How was she able to even dig a hole big enough to accompany a horse?

I was trying to capture the mound of dirt but didn’t do well.

If she had written anything on the marker it is gone now.

On my walk back to her camp I found part of a snake skin.
This would be my offering to Crazy Woman Camp.

I was going to place it inside this jar that was lying at the base of the tree.  When I picked it up I saw the note attached.  Someone had left a jar full of birdseed for others to scatter about for the birds.
I put the jar back like I found it.

I put the snakeskin in a small bowl wedged in the tree then added a few seashells I found on the ground that had fallen out from the bowl back in to hold the snake skin in place.

These plastic flowers had fallen to the ground and I stuck them back up in to the tree.

I had mistakenly said the thing I found beneath the COVID memorial was a gourd.  When I was reading the notepad, someone wrote they hung up a saguaro boot.  That is what I found, not a gourd.  A saguaro boot is what is left behind when a saguaro dies and the fleshly body rots away.  The boot is a bird nest that was hollowed out within the saguaro when alive. The cactus heals the wound made by the bird leaving a hard crusty skin.  I thought about finding a small one to keep in our home then read it is illegal to collect them.  Why would that be?  Guess I will not be doing that.

Looking into the boot.

I think someone had a can of red paint and is responsible for this along with the “Crazy Woman Camp” stone and redoing the dog grave.  Wouldn’t you think she would have written her dog’s name on the rock?

This page, done in the same hand as the information inside the cover, explains “Desperado”.

The BLM didn’t leave this here but nevertheless I felt it was appropriate.   
I added the upper bone I had found on my way.

That evening as I laid in bed I thought more of her dealing with a dead horse.
I was thinking of the block of stone I was sitting on.  Could two people lift that?
Could two people lift the other rectangular block of stone over the opening of the fire place?
And just where did she find those two blocks of rectangular stone?

A can of sardines and a souvenir magnet from Organ Pipe N.M. Just down the highway.

Red paint man (Desperado?) leaves another mark behind.

Someone a lot younger than I climbed up into the tree to hang these bones.
Red paint man?

And even higher up was hanging a kerosene lantern.

Crazy Woman wasn’t crazy in my book.  I admired her.  This was a tough life living out here in the desert, maybe with a horse her only means of transportation.  Where did she get her water from?  Ajo is ten miles away, the only place for supplies unless Why had more 70 years ago than it does today.
Consider the weather too.

The older I get, the more I realize it is okay to live a life others don’t understand.

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Do I ever leave artsy stuff at a campsite?  
No.  I leave it the way I found it, cleaner if anything.