Friday, April 20, 2012

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

I'm thrilled to finally be able to get completely caught up on here and tell you all about where we are currently at and what we are doing!

As the title of this post suggests, we are now in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  We have been here for about 3 1/2 weeks now and so far we love it!  The landscape is pretty much the same as the rest of the areas we have been in Arizona...desert, cacti, and rocky mountains...but there is one huge difference.  There's WATER here!!! 

Lake Havasu City sits right at the banks of a wide spot in the Colorado River.  The word "Havasu" (have-uh-sue) comes from the Havasupai Tribe and means "blue-green water".  What a true statement that is!  The water is crystal clear and beautiful, especially against the desert landscape, and is already warming up as the temperatures climb...the last few days have been in the 90's and we are expected to reach 105 degrees on Sunday.  We've found lots of great places for sun-bathing and swimming...I have a great tan and feel healthy and happy nearly every day!

One of the interesting attractions of Lake Havasu City is that it is home to the world-famous London Bridge.  In 1968 it was bought from London by Robert P. McCulloch and brought piece by piece to be reconstructed across the canal here.  It was completed and re-dedicated in 1971.  The canal is a popular local spot which features shops and restaurants housed in buildings resembling those in London.  Locals and tourists alike flock to the canal on foot or by boat throughout the day...we arrived here during spring break and it was packed with college students!  They were certainly having fun but the events were well-policed and everyone behaved better than I would have expected.

Another cool thing about Lake Havasu City is that there are tons of hot rods/antique vehicles cruising the streets on a regular basis.  I have a hard time getting Mike to keep his eyes on the road around here because he's eyeballing all the vehicular eye candy!  Here are a couple of photos taken at a random show that took place in a parking lot...on a Thursday!

By now you may be wondering where we are staying...there are two BLM camping areas, one on each end of the city.  We are at the one on the North side, camped about 3 miles down a dirt road into the desert/mountains.  It's "dry-camping", no electricity, water, etc., but we can't complain because the camping is free and we can get to the city rather quickly when we need water or other supplies.  There's tons of hiking to do back there and lots of wildlife to experience.  So far we have seen lizards, snakes, big horn sheep, coyote, scorpions, wild burro, kangaroo rats, and probably more that I'm forgetting since we've been here.

We call our site the "Happy Face Camp" might be able to guess why! (We didn't do it...but it sure does make us smile. :) )

Big Horn Sheep

Lizard Sunning on a Rock

Of course while living the way we are is cheap, it certainly isn't free.  This fact inspired us to yet again go on Craigslist and look for temporary work gigs we could do together to keep some money coming in.  I found an ad looking for two people to do 3 weeks of work planting Mequite sounded perfect for us so I responded and we got the job! 

The gentleman we are working for needed 30,000 Mesquite tree seeds planted in cones...based on previous employee production he anticipated that it would take us about 3 weeks - 5 days a week - to complete.  We did it in one.  I'm not sure what the previous employees were doing with the rest of the time, but sitting around talking or napping comes to mind as possibilities.

You would think that by exceeding expectations we would have worked ourselves out of a job but instead we were slated to build a wooden shed and do some painting to keep us working longer.  Now that everything in that regard is done we have been asked to be part of the next phase of the project...installing irrigation (spray and drip) on the 60 acres the trees will end up being planted at.

The location is the Avi, an indian reservation in Laughlin, Nevada, which has a resort and casino.  Our employer estimates that it will take us a month and a half to complete the installation and in addition to our regular pay we will be receiving free accomodations in a suite at the resort on site.  Who would have thought that a temporary position planting seeds could turn into this!  We should be on our way there in the next few days or so...whenever the supplies we need to start working there arrive.

20,000 cones planted - 10,000 to go!

Mesquite tree seedlings beginning to show

Full-grown Mesquite tree

Closer view of Mesquite tree branches

After our stay in Laughlin we will probably head out of the hotter areas of Arizona, as they will at that point be reaching into the 120-130 degree range.  Mike still wants to visit the Hopi Reservation in the Northeastern part of the state, which is much cooler than the southern areas, so we will probably head there next. 

I'm sure plenty will happen between now and then, however, so who knows where we'll end up but I will most likely be posting again before a decision is made!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The "Star Treatment"!

As we made our final exit from Dateland we felt an immediate sense of relief and a lowering of our stress levels. While we knew that we were on edge there we didn't realize just how much until that point. We made our way to Yuma to visit with my family one more time before heading into California. Mike has always wanted to do the Hollywood Walk of Fame, get a picture with Bruce Lee's star, and see the Hollywood sign in the with a little money in our pockets and all the time in the world on our hands we figured now was as good a time as any to make that dream a reality.

After a fun day and evening seeing the sights, fondling statues, and posing with french Spidermen we decided to stop into a bar called 25 Degrees for a couple of beers and some relaxation.  In the next room from the bar they were having a premier party for the "American Reunion" movie...we didn't see any stars (that we knew of) but we did start chatting with one of the security guys (Chris) that monitors the goings on at the bar and connecting hotel, The Roosevelt. Before we knew it he was ushering us into an inner outdoor courtyard at the hotel...there was a beautiful pool surrounded by palm trees and other greenery and a huge fire with couches to sit on by it.  He set up a security guy to keep everyone else out of the area and for a couple of hours we enjoyed our beers in private by the fire...we still aren't quite sure why we received such special treatment but we certainly weren't complaining! 

Over those two hours we continued to talk with Chris and the other guard G.K. and learned a little more about the history of The Roosevelt.  From the courtyard we could see an apartment that Marilyn Monroe stayed in for two years...we were also told some ghost stories about a couple of the rooms at the hotel.

Even though we were nowhere near able to afford to spend a night there (rooms started at $300 per night) we were treated like we mattered by all of the staff there and would highly recommend it to anyone who can!

Marilyn Monroe's Apartment

I wish we had been able to get better pictures there, these ones don't do much justice at all!

After having some coffee and sobering up for the drive out of Hollywood we made our way down the highway until we found a rest stop to get some sleep at.  When we woke up in the morning we were met with this spectacular view...

This is San Jacinto Peak...Palm Springs is in the valley next to it and there's a tramway you can take to the top.  It was a little pricey but we decided to go ahead and do it anyway.  We stopped at a tiny little Dinosaur gift shop and museum before we headed to Palm Springs for our tram ride...everything was incredibly overpriced but the photo op was free!

San Jacinto Peak is nearly 11,000 feet above sea level and typically has temperatures 30 degrees below those in the valley.  It had a fresh blanket of snow when we went up, which made for some beautiful photos and a chance to experience "winter" without suffering too much!

It was an amazing experience and definitely worth every penny! 

Palm Springs was a quaint little town but it was obvious that the cost of living would be expensive so we didn't spend much time there at all before getting back on the road and heading to Lake Havasu City, AZ, which is where we have been for the last few weeks.  I will cover that part of our journey in my next post but for now I will leave you with a blurry but interesting photo I got at a gas station on the way here.


You don't see that every day!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Date Palms in the Middle of Nowhere

It's been months since I have updated this blog...I apologize to those of you that may have been worried about us but there were some good reasons for holding off on posting for as long as I did.

Since my last entry we managed to fix the van (it was the power steering pump) and she has been running like a dream ever since.  While in Phoenix we responded to an advertisement for work in a tiny little town called Dateland, AZ...we would receive housing and bi-weekly paychecks for working full-time at the travel center there.  Dateland is halfway between Phoenix and Yuma in the middle of nowhere...the population is about 300 (no, that is not a typo...I really said 300) and aside from the travel center/rv park there is a post office, small mexican grocery, K-8 school, and a hole-in-the-wall bar...that's it.  So, of course, we agreed to take the job when it was offered to us...because we're crazy like that!

Above are two pictures of Dateland, the top one shows the housing we stayed in and the bottom shows the other side of the street...railroad tracks and then miles upon miles of open desert and mountains.  We had no internet access out there so it was practically impossible for me to do any writing on we were busy with work and hiking around the area or heading to Yuma for supplies when we had time off.

Dateland was so-named many years ago because of the date palms raised there (you can see some in the top photo).  There are tons of varieties of dates, the travel center we worked at offered Medjool, Honey, Thoory, Halawi, Khadrawy, Black, and "Dateland" (unknown variety) dates.

 I managed the gift shop and handled all online orders...Mike managed at the Texaco.  When we accepted the jobs it was understood that we would be working the same or very similar shifts - that did not end up happening.  I ended up working 8am-4pm and Mike typically worked 2pm-10pm...with only one day off per week together.  Work there was strained and stressful, as was the fact that we were hardly seeing each other.  As much as we tried not to let it interfere in our relationship it did affect things for awhile.  We lasted a whole 4 months before giving notice and finally leaving.

Mexico is approximately 30 miles south of Dateland (if you feel like trekking across the desert and over mountains to get there) so needless to say we had to brush up a little bit on our basic Spanish-speaking skills and couple those with hand-gestures to try to communicate with some of the locals.  Most of the younger generation were bilingual, however, so that helped quite a bit at work and when needing an interpreter.

In addition to the Mexican locals there was a solar plant going up about 10 miles away so we had a lot of the solar plant workers staying at the rv park and coming to the travel center for supplies.  We also have a steady flow of border patrol agents that came through and kept us informed on the goings on in the area (border jumpers, drug busts, etc)...we personally saw a couple of arrests and a few more "runners" during our time in Dateland.

Since we were in Dateland over the winter most of our customers were what are called snow birds, older people from the northern states and Canada who migrate to the southern states and Mexico for the winter months.  They weren't all as pleasant as I would have hoped but we did meet some really interesting people, too...usually the ones that were on foot or bike and traveling cross-country. We met 3 young guys riding "tall bikes" cross-country, an older Italian gentleman who has traveled 10s of thousands of miles by bike all over the world, and countless others who have for one reason or another decided to leave their material possessions behind in exchange for a different kind of life.

One of the things I particularly loved about being in Dateland was my ability to go to Yuma every couple of weeks to visit with my Aunt Sally and Uncle Richard, who have been living there for about 20 years.  I didn't get to see them very much while growing up so it has been wonderful to finally be able to get to know them.  To make things even better my Grandma travels from Connecticut each year to stay with them for the winter so I got to see her quite a bit, as well. We also took day trips to Quartzite, AZ (they have a really cool gem/craft show with vendors from all over the country that lasts a couple of months there each winter) and San Diego (which I absolutely hated...too many people and too little natural beauty).

I'm sure I left a ton out but my brain is fried for the time next blog entry will be about our travels after leaving Dateland and where we are currently...but for now I will leave you with a photo taken at our going away party at the hole-in-the-wall bar the day before we left Dateland.

From left to right (co-workers) Leslie, Larissa, Star, and me!