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March 20, 2006

Arizona - Part II


East of Yuma we finally found significant agriculture and after the dry of the past few weeks it was a welcome sight.  But the green is the result of massive irrigation, while dust storms rage on the land where the plants have not sprouted.   In fact, there are warning signs on the highways about reduced visibility because of blowing dust.  We found it interesting that the field workers come in by a bus which also pulls two portable toilets for them.


Yuma Territorial State Prison, built by the earliest inmates in 1876, was known as “the Hell Hole of Arizona” and was used as a prison until 1909.  I can’t imagine how hot is must have been in the tiny cells in the Arizona summer.  The prison was the setting for Steve McQueen’s original 50’s TV series “Wanted Dead or Alive”.  It sat at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers and looked out over the flood plain. 

Yuma has warm dry winters and because of this “snowbirds” descend on it, keeping over 70 RV & trailer parks busy. 

Yuma is on the California border just north of Mexico and is as far west as we are going on this trip.  We headed 80 miles north through the Yuma Proving Grounds where the army stages tank battles and other tests of military equipment, to Quartzsite, which is another area that feels the influx of snowbirds.  Literally hundreds of thousands of RV-owners descend on the area in January and February because of the rock and gem show, RV show and Sell-O-Rama (a huge flea market), held then.   Escaping the northern winters also is a major draw and they dry camp (no hookups) by the thousands in the desert around the town. 

DSC_0841On Sunday, the 12th, we drove up to see Lake Havasu which is about 70 miles further north and was created by the damming of the Colorado River.  A most unusual sight – London Bridge – spans a channel, which was dug so that the bridge would have something to span.  R. McCulloch (the chainsaw manufacturer) bought the bridge in 1967 and had the 10,000 numbered blocks of granite shipped from London, across the Atlantic and put back together here.  The bridge now ranks second among Arizona’s tourist attractions, after the Grand Canyon. 


While we were in Quartzsite, a major storm came across the area dropping up to 2 feet of snow in the mountains and significant rain at lower elevations.  The rain on March 11th broke a dry spell of 143 days and the excitement on the radio and TV was amazing.   We in Ontario take the rain for granted & forget sometimes how important it is.  On Tuesday March 13th we turned east from Quartzsite to Phoenix.  The mountains to the east of the city were beautiful, covered by the new snow.  Ross took me out for lunch on the 14th, my birthday, to a great restaurant called “Wildflower”.  If you ever get a chance – go! 

Both of us found Phoenix to be a very impressive city with wide clean streets and wonderful views of the mountains.  The majority of the houses do not have lawns as the landscaping is desert plants and trees and no grass.  It makes for a totally different look in the residential areas.

DSC_0894_editedAfter a couple of days, we continued north and stayed for two nights in the parking lot of Cliff Castle Casino just north of Camp Verde. The first afternoon we visited Montezuma’s Castle, a pink adobe cliff dwelling that was originally reached by 3 separate ladders from the valley floor.  The sycamore beams are apparently still in place, and the fingerprints of the Indian masons are still visible on the bricks, but visitors are not allowed to climb up.  It is believed that this dwelling is over 700 years old and no one knows why it was abandoned.

The next day we went to Sedona. As you drive toward it through Oak Creek the red cliffs overpower you.  The town is quite neat with high class (read expensive) shops.  We even found another Wildflower for lunch!

I’m going to let the pictures of the area speak for themselves.



We left our contribution at the casino and headed north and east past Flagstaff to Gallup, New Mexico.  We didn’t take the time to go further north to the Grand Canyon as we have visited it twice before.  We did drive through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert which is only a short detour off I-40.  Apparently petrified wood is found in every state, but the sheer abundance of it in this area of Arizona is extraordinary.  The trees date back 225 million years and didn’t originate here but accumulated like a log jam in an ancient river.  Bit by bit, buried in layers of silt and ash, silica seeped in to the original wood cells and crystallized into quartz.  The colours are amazing.

Leaving the Petrified Forest you drive through the Painted Desert, a poorly defined area of multi-coloured badlands that covers much of northeast Arizona.  It supports little vegetation or life of any kind and continues to erode at a fearsome rate.


We stopped just inside the New Mexico border that evening and will head toward Santa Fe tomorrow.

Posted by Ross at March 20, 2006 07:22 PM


Have always wanted to see Sedona--good friends just returned from spending a week there and a week in Phoenix--not in a RV. They just sold theirs but with RCI. Anyway, your pictures, as always were fantastic. Have a very safe trip home.

Sincerely, Bette

Posted by: Bette Andrew at April 5, 2006 04:32 PM