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June 17, 2017

Travel Days in the SCOARCHNIG desert southwest

From Felicity, CA it’s just 8 miles to Yuma, AZ, however as usual we will pass through the the main traffic area to fill up on the east side of town.  Diesel is $2.30 in AZ compared to $2.80 per gallon in San Diego.

We have a tradition of stopping at Dateland for a date shake, and this trip is no different.  While here we catch the weather report that our cool 98F will skyrocket tomorrow.  Borrego Springs is looking at 118F and Phoenix 120F, time to make some time. 
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We turn south off I8 onto US85 and arrive in Ajo AZ (AH-ho) at 4PM with the thought of a quick overnight on the BLM sites along Darby Well Road, but it is still 95F out and we look for an easy overnight RV park.  Ajo is the Spanish word for garlic, although the only garlic in town is at the IGA.

Until 1985 this was a thriving copper mining area, then the mine closed leaving nearly everyone in the town unemployed overnight.  The tiny town of Ajo now relies heavily on tourist traffic as it tries to revitalize itself.  Of the many RV parks we pull into Belly Acres a small older park which offers FHU for $22.50.  Not good for the bigger rigs.
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Continuing south from Ajo is the Organ Pipes National Monument.  Definitely a place that deserves more time and a Jeep to explore. 
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The short nature trail from the Visitor Center we see our first Organ Pipe along with more saguaro.  We also see the biggest cholla ever.  We’ll see bigger ones later, but don’t think I’ve ever had to look up at a SoCal cholla.
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Just past the campground is the Desert View Trail, a short 1.5 mile loop.  This trail should be done counter-clockwise, from the trailhead opposite the restrooms – not the marked end of the trail behind the restrooms.  We did it backwards! 
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From the trail we see vast numbers of saguaro cactus on the west facing slopes.  But as the trail climbs higher the Organ Pipe cactus dominate the east facing slopes.  When young they are beautiful, but do not seem to age well.
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And a single little fishhook cactus among the giants
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From the top of the trail the fence is clearly visible along the Mexico US border and the elevation gain is only ~200 ft
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Returning north on 85 to Why, AZ and the junction of 86 into Tucson.  This is a beautiful drive with the saguaro in blooms of white and red, a massive crested saguaro can be seen on the north side of the road.

The Saguaro National Park is divided into west and east sections, separated by the city of Tucson.  Having not been to the east section before, we decide to make the trip.  After seeing all the magnificent blooms in the morning we were disappointed that none were blooming in the park.  That’s where we learned they open their flowers during the night and close again during the morning to conserve moisture.

There are pullouts along the 9-mile loop road on the east section and some have the opportunity to hike.  But parking an RV (30 ft limit) has very limited possibilities.  This section is also more urban with homes in the background of many viewpoints.
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We hop back on 10 east and decide to call it a day in Benson AZ.  The Butterfield Resort & Observatory has an evening star party and it’s off the freeway.  Well there is no freeway noise, but it is on a busy railroad line – who knew?  And the star parties in the off-season are hit-and-miss, we signed up along with several other guests, but the party was cancelled.  Still a park with its own observatory is a plus.  The off-season rate of $32 for this 5-star resort was still a very nice overnight.  There are 2 driving ranges with balls and loaner clubs, and a brand new pickle ball court.
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For miles along 8-east are signs for ‘The Thing’, or the ‘Continental Divide Trading Post’.  We managed to escape the lure of ‘The Thing’ again, but I wanted a new dream catcher for my hiking staff – I used my last dream in Yosemite Sad smile.
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The Continental Divide Trading Post is about what I expected …
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But they did have dream-catcher, albeit with only 3 dreams – of course I can add my own so that’s ok, and a postcard of Annie Oakley.  Fran’s roots are in the home town of ‘Little Miss Sureshot’, Greenville OH.  Review my blog on our visit to Garst Museum and her gravesite HERE.

We pull into the west end of Deming NM with the idea of topping diesel, but all 3 of the old stations are now closed.  There are quite a few RV parks here and we’ve stayed at a few, and the Walmart offers overnight parking, but we’re just here for gas and lunch this trip.  I find diesel on the east end of town at $2.50/gal a bit steep, at least it’s on the way to St Clair Winery
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Seems most of the blogs I read are beer drinkers.  A good beer can be found anywhere, by son is a chemist and makes a nice beer, but wine is a challenge and red wine an art.  I'll be tossing in my personal  hedonistic reviews to balance things.

I prefer dry red wines and did pick up a nice D.H. Syrah (D.H. are the signature wines) for dinner, this Lescombe’s Chardonnay (Lescomibe is the founder) is a very dry wine and their only white aged in oak – perfect with the smoked salmon we brought for such an opportunity.   With a nice breeze on the grass area of the patio.
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Note that there is $10 NM corkage fee  … we were not advised of this and were able to have it waived after a brief discussion.

We leave Deming toward Silver City, but with the late start and fires in the area, we are headed toward Truth or Consequences with plans to stay a couple days at Elephant Butte State Park.  None of the ‘developed’ sites are near the water so there is no need to get the perfect waterfront site.  Look for one that is level and near the WiFi towers.  We’re in site 51 next to the WiFi tower.  The WiFi at times is quite nice, but at others times drops off – typical park WiFi.
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A roadrunner provides morning entertainment as it fights off its mirror image for the bugs on the next site’s truck.
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There is ample parking at the lake but the water is not all we expected.  The 2-stroke engines leave an oily film and there are lots of bugs near shore.  Fran gave up on her SUP as a StandUp Paddleboard, jet skis and boat wakes made it a challenge.  She is paddling back on her SUP as a SitUp Paddleboard.

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Well there are ticks also and we left a day early.  My technique for removing a tick is to saturate a Q-tip in vegetable oil and slather the critter.  Then with ample oil on the Q-tip turn the tick slowly in a circle a little at a time.  Once it backs out destroy the bugger!  This has worked on my lazy SoCal critters, no promise it works on yours.

A brief stop for lunch at the Walking Sands Rest Area, which is a unique looking stop on I-25.  The restrooms and picnic pavilions are elevated to allow the sand to ‘walk’.
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By late afternoon we arrive in Albuquerque where we have reservations for a two night stay the day after tomorrow.  The Albuquerque KOA Journey was most accommodating in finding us a spot for one night including all deposits already made.  Sweet!
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This is a nice park, altho a bit expensive.  The WiFi works, as does the cable TV (47 channels), showers are included in a 3/4 bath (shower, toilet, sink).

At $56 it is a bit expensive, so this is a one night splurge and in this weather not a bad deal Smile.

We'll continue to move fairly quickly.  The RV seems t like the hot weather tho.  With the cruise control set at 65 the diagnostic panel says we are averaging 16.2 mpg.

Into the mountains next and hopefully a bit cooler!  A lot cooler would be better!
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