Thursday, January 30, 2014

Anniversary Party

When we left Mesa two weeks ago we knew we would be returning shortly for a surprise 40th anniversary party for our ballooning friends, Mike and T.  Their kids planned a great party and we were happy to be part of the celebration.
The cake.  They are so young to be married 40 years.
Their son, Daniel, had taken them to lunch and everyone hid on the stairs waiting for them to arrive.
Their son and daughter, Chris and Michelle who live in Denver, were waiting on the steps when the couple walked through the door. 
Mike and T were truly surprised that all their kids, grand kids and several ballooning friends were there for the party.
Luke, Nanc, Angela and her husband top.
Michelle, Brenda, Sandy and ??? bottom.
Sorry I did not get a picture of Judy.  It was she and Luke who introduced us to Mike and T at the balloon fiesta in 2011.
More friends and family.  Center is Paul whom we crewed for when he did his first solo flight.  He has since gotten his license.
T and Mike with their children Chris, Michelle and Daniel.
Mike and T with their kids, spouses and grand kids.  It was great being there to help them celebrate.  We sure do look forward to more adventures with the ballooning Libertis in the future.
We did not take the rig to Mesa for the party.  We used our travel points and stayed in a motel.  We took advantage of the whirlpool and even got massages as we were both dealing with neck pain.  It was wonderful!! 
We drove a two lane road rather than the Interstate for most of the trip.  We even went through and beyond Hope, where it appears the grammar is what is beyond hope.  I stole this picture from Sharon Del Rosario's blog.
The land along this route was some of the driest and most barren we have traveled.  Almost as bad a west Texas but not quite as far:-)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lake Havasu, London Bridge and Balloons

We have now moved on to Lake Havasu City for the next month.  The city is only fifty years old and was built to take advantage of recreation provided by a lake in the middle of the desert.  It has grown into a city of over 50,000 so, even though it is far from any large urban center, it offers all the services one needs.  There are several events scheduled while we are here including a balloon festival.  We talked about volunteering to crew but decided we would just be spectators and enjoy the balloons.  One strange thing that has been happening here is my iPhone keeps jumping from Arizona to California (we can see it out the window) time.  This caused us to be up way to early for the first day of balloons.   
As our friends back East have been freezing, the weather here has been the best we have had during any of our winter stays in the Southwest.  Every day highs have been in the middle 70's and lows around 50.  Even Nanc is enjoying the short sleeve temps.
As the town of Lake Havasu was being developed in the early 60's they decided they needed an attraction in addition to the lake to bring people here.  So in 1968 the developers bought the London Bridge, that had been crossing the river Thames since 1831, and moved it stone by stone to the desert.  The bridge was rebuilt over dry land and then a channel was dug for the water.  The idea sure worked, as London Bridge is second only to the Grand Canyon as a Arizona tourist stop.
While not nearly as big as the Albuquerque Fiesta, there were about 80 balloons at this festival.  We did learn the hard way that it is not necessary to pay to get to where the balloons are.  The first morning we paid and then ended up following the balloonists who were launching off site.  They do this to try and catch the winds that will bring them over the bridge where they do a splash and go.  Really neat!! 
More balloons over the bridge.
This guy got real wet as you can see from the water dripping off the bottom.
 Pilot in the morning sun checking out the balloon before they fire up the burners.
One unusual thing here is the safety patrol boats that tow the balloons back to shore on the Arizona side of the lake.  The California side is many miles away for the chase crews and much of it is uninhabited desert with no roads. 
It sure is neat seeing the balloons among the palm trees and over the water.
Biplanes putting on a show above the balloons.
Looking across the lake to the launch site.
Another splash and go in the narrow channel.  There were all kinds of water craft, from speed boats, to pontoons, to kayaks and even a couple of paddle boarders.
The area around the Lions and Rotary Parks along the channel and the lake is a great place to see all the action.
An unseen balloon casts its shadow on the balloon on the right and that balloon casts its shadow on the one on the left.
We saw these two balloons in Albuquerque.  Montgolfiere Racer passes over Perfect World.
The launch site from the opposite lake shore.
Several splash and goes in the lake with the California mountains in the background.  Lake Havasu is a great place to watch the balloons.  If you are like us and can't get enough of seeing the balloons here is a web album with a few more pictures.  What a great start to our month-long stay in Lake Havasu!!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Q, Music and Friends

We had an extra week between leaving Mesa and our reservations in Lake Havasu City.  We ended up spending three days at Saddle Mountain RV Park in Tonopah and then headed to Quartzsite for the rest of the week.  Quartzsite is a winter haven for RVers, where thousands gather on free or very cheap government land to boondock.  When we hit the road seven years ago I imagined we would spend a lot of time "off the grid" camped along beautiful mountain streams.  This is not what I imagined.  We have done it a couple of times, but not very often.  As for the dry camping at Q it is a been there done that experience and if it weren't for seeing friends, it's not something we will do for extended periods of times.  We like full hook ups.
Coming down I-10 in to Quartzsite you can see the many white roofs of Rvs. 
On our first night in Q we went to a show at the QIA where we ran into Stella and Don whom we previously met at Betty's.  I had my Betty's shirt on and you can't believe how many people stopped me to say they have been there.  The lady is a legend.
The entertainment that evening was the New Christy Minstrels, who are celebrating their 53rd year.  Center is Randy Sparks, a founding member.  It was a great show and it was fun hearing all those old songs.
One of those great desert sunsets.
We were there too early for the official Escapees Happy Hour, but we did enjoy the campfire with a few other early arrivals.  The weather was the best we have experienced on any of our desert visits.
We did a short day trip and hike with Ron and Linda to the Palm Canyon area of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge is over 665,000 acres of desert and mountains.  The trail was a little rough and a bit steep, but the view was fantastic.
The hike took us several hundred feet above the valley.  This is looking 30 miles across the La Posa Plains to the Dome Rock Mountains.  As an Easterner I am always amazed at how far you can see when you are in the West.
Our goal was the palm trees in Palm Canyon.  These are the only native palms in Arizona.  There are a couple of theories, but no one is really sure how they got here. One theory is they remain from the glacial period and the other is that they grew from seeds dropped by birds.   There are only about 200 native trees in this one narrow, steep little canyon. 
Another thing I never get used to is the spectacular blue sky.  What a contrast with the brown desert, a few green trees and the big blue sky.  We did see a few cacti that were starting to bloom.
More friends with a Betty's connection.  In the spring of 2010 we met Omer and Sylvia in Abbeville and then took them up on their offer to stay at their place in Nova Scotia on our way to Newfoundland.  Then two years ago when we were in Q we saw them again.  We went to the same spot where they had been camping and sure enough they were there again.
Omer is a wonderful guitar player and he and Sylvia sure sing a sweet duet.   They attend jam sessions six days a week while they are in Quartzsite.  We went to one of the jams and had a fun afternoon of music.  There were over 30 musicians who took their turn at the main mike.  Sylvia accompanied Omer singing a song we may adopt as ours, This Old Town.  It was great seeing them and we send our congratulations as they celebrated their 50th anniversary this past summer.
We had a couple more Class of 07 mates stop by for a nice happy hour.  Here are Marty, Linda, Ron and Trish.  We have crossed paths with them several times during our years on the road.  It is always great seeing friends and we enjoyed our time in the desert.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Final Days in Mesa Part II

The busy end to our stay in Mesa continued with a bit of exploring and getting together with friends.  As usually happens, the time of our stay comes to an end and we have not done all we had planned.  We wanted to have dinner with Mike and T and Linda and Mike but because of every one's busy schedules we did not get that chance.  We did get together with Dave and Sarah and also Ron and Linda who were passing through the area on their way to Quartzsite.

Since we were in Mesa two years ago we have wanted to get an up close view of this B-17 that often flies over Sun Life.  We got together with Dave and Sarah (I was so excited about the planes I did not take a pic of them) and went to the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum at nearby Falcon Field.  The B-17 is the largest of several planes in the museum.

When I started teaching in WashPA in 1976 there was a teacher at the high school who had been a tail gunner on a Flying Fortress during WWII.  Seeing the conditions he flew under gives one a whole new appreciation of the Greatest Generation.  The survival rate for tail gunners was the lowest of all the crew members.  Top left is the navigator's seat, at the center is the outside of the waist and bottom turret guns and on the right I am manning the waist gun.  Bottom left is the tail gun and on the right is the bomb bay.  You can go up in this baby for $425 to sit in the waist or $850 to ride in the navigator's seat.  

Some of the helicopters and other planes on display.

Top is a P-51 that was owned by Robert Odegaard, a pilot and restorer of old warbirds who was killed this past September flying a Corsair.  Bottom is a BT - 13A Vuitee Vailant.

This B-25 Mitchell bomber, another plane that is available for rides, was in the shop for its annual maintenance.  The museum has several planes that you can go up in with prices starting at $95.

A display of engines and flight jackets with a machine that makes dog tags pictured in the middle.  We have been to several museums during our years on the road and this one ranks right up there.  My only disappointment was the cost of flying in that B-17, I thought it would be fun, but not at that price.

Another day we got together with Ron and Linda for dinner and to see their new to them motorhome.  They have been looking for just the right one to replace their 5th wheel for a while and found this beauty in Tuscan. 

We had one last lunch with Allan and Sharon.  We were happy to hear they plan to come to Yuma while we are there next month.

Across the street from where we had lunch that day was Steel Dreamz, an auto dealer that sells classic cars.  We always like to check out the old cars so we went in and were surprised to see this painting on the wall.  It is of Don Yenko Chevrolet that was in Canonsburg just a few miles from WashPA.  The salesman did not really know the story behind the painting other than Don was a big car guy.

Steel Dreamz had cars from this 1951 Ford, to a 510 horsepower Rouch Mustang, to a couple of Vettes and this old Packard and Rolls Royce.  It was fun looking, but an old classic does not fit into our lifestyle.

We were due for new tires on Opus so we had an appointment to get them on the way out of town.  Because of an alignment issue we had several years ago we had to have the two front tires moved to the back to replace those oldest tires and the new tires put on the front.  The good news was we were only paying for two tires, the bad news was they were still very expensive.  That said we used the FMCA Michelin program and saved about $100 per tire.

As I write we are in Quartzsite for a few days before heading to Lake Havasu.  I'm a bit behind with the blog because I have not been able to get the pictures to download.  This morning I used Google Chrome and it seems to be working.