Monday, January 12, 2009

The Call of the Desert

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“This is the setting for almost every cowboy movie I’ve seen (Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Shane)” was my thought the first time I encountered the desert.

In my imagination, I watched the cowboy ride along the dusty trail across the barren desolate flatland. The only sign of possible life is the scraggly bushes and the occasional cactus scattered over the landscape. The rising dust settles on the intermittent plants and somehow makes them look even more dead and dried out.

Off in the distance craggy rocks and dirt rise up from the ground like someone has dumped the piles there to keep out any semblance of moisture. Above colourless terrain, the sun beats down from an endless intensely blue sky that is only interrupted by light wispy clouds.

Wow – what a great imagination!

. . . And the Call of the Casinos

The Casinos got in our way around Laughlin – that’s both good and bad! We stayed at the ‘Tropicana Express’ in Laughlin, NV (just across the Colorado River from Bullhead City, AZ) for about three weeks.

Most of the Casinos offer free parking and camping for RVs and it is surprising how full the lots are. Some will pull in just for the night; others for the week-end; and still other stay for a few weeks up to months on end.

We enjoyed our time there and managed to get six free nights at the hotel and partake of the most wonderful Prime Rib dinners at the buffet for $6.99 (as well as donate a bit of money to the Casino). Almost everyone (gamblers or not) was able to get at least a couple of free nights in the hotel. The ­long-long-long hot water showers were the greatest rewards (most RVs have about 5 gallon hot water tanks and limited waste water tanks; so long showers are highly valued). A lot of folks would actually go back to their rigs to sleep – your own bed is always better.

It’s interesting to see the parking lot communities develop even over a short a period of time. Close friendship are made that often last for months, if not years and you often hear RV’ers arrange to meet again further into the winter.

Each lot seems to have one or two RVs where people gather and visit. At the Tropicana, there were two Filipino sisters (with their spouses) who meet in Laughlin every year – one from Georgia and the other from Alaska. It’s the only time the sisters get to see one another and they spend a good part of the winter together right there.

Late each afternoon, a group usually gets together somewhere on the lot to play music or just sit around talking until dark.

Most RVers stop at the Casinos to revitalize; play for a while; renew old acquaintances; and make new ones. We did it all: we re-established a relationship with a gal we met way back in 2001 when we first started our winter excursions. Mya is a single woman in her 70’s from Minnesota. She’s been RVing on her own for years and now lives in her Motorhome full-time. I traded a book for a great little hand-made Tin-Man that Mya’s brother made. I know we’ll meet up with her again before we journey back home.

The Desert Bar

On our wat down to Quartzsite, we visited with a couple we met in Texas last year and took a trip up to Nellie’s Desert Bar. Now the "Nellie E Saloon" is built on an old mining camp site, way up into the Buckskin Mountains (hills) about 5 miles north of Parker, AZ and about 8 miles in on a road that looks like what it is – an old neglected mine road.

The entire place is “off the grid” – that is, it is run entirely by solar power and is only open on the week-ends.

Nellie’s bar is a popular place for 4-wheeler groups – the weekend warriors – to meet after their outings into the hills.

Ken, the owner, must have been a welder – there are metal sculptures all over the place and the church is all fabricated from metal.

Mud Volcanoes

Quartzsite is the old familiar stomping-grounds. We stayed there for about a month and I was able to have one book-signing at the Library and sold a couple of books. After that the old and familiar became quite unexciting so we went down to Yuma to visit, shop and explore.

That brought us to the Salton Sea Mud Domes or Mud Volcanoes at the Davis-Schrimpf field near the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley, California only about an hour’s drive from Yuma.

These are geothermal formations which produce bubbling pots of mud and carbon dioxide gases escaping from beneath the surface crust. They don’t seem to know much about how they’re formed or why they happen but they are fascinating.

I had better get this up on line – next venture will be book signings at the Readers’ Oasis Books (owned by the fellow who is attired in a thong and a hat) during the Big Tent Shows in Quartzsite.

I'll honestly try to get the BLOG up more often - sometimes, there's really nothing to say - and Life Goes On!