I’ll start this blog off with the next Beer sample set. From this selection my favourite was the Belching Beaver Brewery Peanut Butter Milk Stout, not just because the name was cool;-) It sounds very odd but it was quite good with just a hint of Peanut Butter. The second favourite was the Lagunitas Imperial Stout.
On Thursday March 29th we had the 1 week follow-up visit for Sharon’s eye and the Retinal Surgeon gave us the clearance to begin travelling home. It was a good thing that he had used the Silicone Oil in her eye because within 30 minutes of leaving from Menifee we had already climbed more than the 1500’ of elevation to start our return journey (that would have been the limit with gas). We could see the snow-capped peak of San Gorgonio as we drove. As we passed through Palm Springs on our return we had the hottest day of our entire 4 month trip so far at 35.5 C (96 F)! Since we were travelling to Mesa to connect up with our friends Pete and Pat we decided to drive roughly halfway and stay in Blythe California at the Mayflower County Campground. The campground was very basic but the location was nice along the fast flowing Colorado River. We had some California strawberries for breakfast the next day and you can see how massive they are in comparison to the regular size on the right.
From Blythe we were taking I-10 to Phoenix/Mesa and we really don’t like travelling on these Interstate Highways due to all the traffic and trucks. It was especially bad as we got stuck in a major traffic jam starting 68 KMS from downtown Phoenix! On the first night we arrived in Val Vista Village Mesa, Pete and Pat were hosting their friends Lola and Betty to celebrate Betty’s 90th birthday. The following day Sharon and I walked around the park and had lunch and drinks by the pool to cool down from the 90 F weather. I got a great deal on beer as the Four Peaks beer was foaming up too much so they gave me 3 glasses for the price of one! That evening we took Pete and Pat out to the Blue Adobe Grille for some fantastic New Mexico food (we brought lots of leftovers back with us). On Sunday we did some shopping at Trader Joe’s and Sprouts and had BBQ Pork Tenderloin for dinner. Pete harvested 12 Grapefruits from his tree so we could take them with us, they were incredibly juicy. Since the temperature was over 90 F each of the days we stayed in Mesa we realized that we had used our RV AC more in that 3 day period than in the prior two years of owning the RV.
Our first stop after we left Mesa was Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park to have a quick look around (this also meant we had taken full advantage of our Arizona State Park pass). The botanical gardens focus on desert plants from around the world. We first walked the Curandero Trail with the Sonoran desert exhibit and really enjoyed all the cacti that were flowering (collage photo) and the views of the surrounding mountains. We also went through a few of the greenhouses and saw the hummingbird and Rose garden areas. They had lots of other hiking trails but we knew we needed to get to Show Low that day so we carried on.
We carried on along Highway 60 with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys and also some mining areas until we dropped down into Salt River Canyon, wow! This area was like a mini Grand Canyon with twisty turns and huge drop offs all along. There wasn’t too much traffic so we could go at our pace and enjoy the scenery all around us. We got out at the rest area in the bottom of the canyon and learned about the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache tribes in the area. They had a huge set of stairs to go down to the river and you could walk out on the old two lane highway bridge. After looking around we started the huge ascent out of the canyon.
After we left the canyon we climbed up to Show Low Arizona at an elevation of 6345’ and checked in at the Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area. We really felt like we were back home in Northern Ontario with pine trees, the lake, and much cooler temperatures. Before we left the next day we did a short easy 2 KM trail along the lake.
The drive from Show Low towards the New Mexico border was high plateau country and we could see white snow-capped peaks in the White Mountains. Pete and Pat had told us about Pietown so of course we had to stop for lunch and some amazing pies. Sharon had Chocolate Cherry pie and I had Pecan custard and they were hot right out of the oven! They serve you half the pie with ice cream and then we took the other halves away for the next couple of days. Shortly after Pietown we crossed the Continental Divide at 7796’ and camped at the Datil Well BLM Campground (only $5 per night). They had a display board that gave the history of the Ocean to Ocean Highway and details on how part of this became Highway 60 which we were following.
As we drove across the Plains of San Agustin we stopped to see the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope. There are twenty seven 25 meter high radio telescopes in a Y shaped array and they are on railroad tracks so the array can be adjusted for different observations (VLA).
In Socorro NM we bought some groceries and got diesel and briefly drove on I-25 until we turned back onto Highway 60 to head east. This section of 60 had no traffic and really no towns. We stopped at the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – Abo Ruins to look around and have lunch. This site preserves 3 ancient Indian villages where Spanish friars started missions in the 1600’s. They had a trail booklet with numbered stops so you could read about the various areas still standing. There had been a smaller church completed in 1627 and then a subsequent friar expanded the church from 1641-1651. The loop trail took you from the church to the edge of the arroyo where the Indian settlements were originally constructed as this was a major trade route. At the end of the loop there was a second set of ruins from Spanish Sheep Ranchers who lived here from 1815-1830.
Our next stop was Santa Rosa Lake State Park but enroute we drove by some old salt flats and saw lots of wind turbines. Of course the wind turbines were in an extremely windy area and the gusts made it scary to drive, especially the one gust that almost shook the steering wheel right out of my hands. At the SP they still had one first come first serve site left so we took that for the night. The next day we had planned to leave but then we found out about the cold front that was heading down and snow was forecast so we decided to spend one more night at the SP and then go to Tucumcari for 2 nights to hopefully let the winter weather advisories pass. Since we stayed at the SP another day we had time to do a 3 KM section of the shoreline trail. It was strange for us to see Juniper trees intermixed with various cacti. The next day when we left the park we drove back across the dam and stopped for the view at the Overlook.
The town of Santa Rosa is on Historic Route 66 and one of the tourist attractions is the Blue Hole, often called “Nature’s Jewel” and is one of the most unique geological phenomenon in the Southwest. We had read about this before we left home as it is one of the places to Scuba Dive in New Mexico. We couldn’t dive it this time around due to Sharon’s eye surgery but we decided to go check it out anyway. For sure we will come back to this location to dive at some point in the future. The hole is Bell shaped with an 80’ diameter top narrowing to 60’ and then expanding to 130’ at the bottom which is 81’ deep with a constant water temp of 61 F. When we first viewed the Blue hole no one was in but after we looked at the exhibit area there were Free Divers taking a course and 2 Scuba Divers just going down. The elevation of the blue hole is 4620’ which adds a bit of extra dive complexity and they say it is as blue as the Blue Hole in Belize (which we have been diving in twice). What a spectacular location! After the Blue Hole we stopped and had Mexican food along Route 66 at the Comet Restaurant.
The last photo for this blog will seem totally out of place;-) Our friend Ross back home sent his drone up over the bay to take a photo of our house (the blue one) after the most recent snow fall. This is what we are heading back to now but hopefully all the snow will melt before we get back. Thanks Ross for the great photo!