Monday, April 20, 2015

Sweet Rolls, Swap Meets, and the Blues--Ajo AZ to Needles CA

Roadsign seen near the Carefree Highway 

A couple of days after Steve went home to Why, I headed back out on my trip to Seattle, this time solo.  With Steve's help, I had reorganized the rig a little bit and offloaded things I wasn't likely to use when traveling by myself, such as the small propane barbecue.

Nope, I'm more of a "I think I'll find a bakery and a thrift shop" kind of gal.  And, in this, I've had a most satisfying week.  

Some petroglyphs at Painted Rock near Gila Bend, AZ

For the first few days I was back to traveling solo, I went very slowly and stayed on remote BLM lands, kind of rerouting my itinerary.  I spent a couple of nights on Darby Well Road outside of Ajo, then I headed up to Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, which is west of Gila Bend, AZ, off of I-8.  There is an 11-mile paved road that goes up to Painted Rock.  The campground is just desert land with some picnic tables and fire circles, but it's also inexpensive ($4 I believe with my Access pass) and quiet, and the rocks are interesting.  I stayed one night only, because it was hot during the daytime, and I wanted to escape the heat by continuing north.

 Shorebirds just a few feet off my stern at Lake Pleasant Regional Park north of Phoenix

One thing I am really trying to do on this trip is rely on my intuition.  There are tons of websites that provide information about where to camp, but sometimes I like to just figure it out by myself.  That's what I did for my next stop.  I was looking at my road atlas and saw that there was a nice big lake north of Phoenix called Lake Pleasant, but there were no markings on the map about parks.  But I had a hunch there must be something nice there, and when I looked it up online, there was a Maricopa County park there with campgrounds ($20 to $30 per night) and dry camping right on the beach ($12 per night).  Yay!  I spent a night there parked about 20 feet from the water, enjoying the cool breezes from the lake.  The following morning, though, the breezes had become a really big gusty wind, and I had to wait for that to die down before I could safely pull out of there.

A fabulous sweet roll at Bedoian's in Wickenburg, made by the barista's brother; he makes a fresh batch every morning

I took the Carefree Highway (AZ State Highway 74), named for a small town and immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot, from Lake Pleasant to Wickenburg where I found a wonderful little cafe, Bedoian's Bakery & Bistro, that had great coffee and probably the best cinnamon roll I've eaten in my lifetime.  And that's high praise from a Minnesota girl who grew up with the good stuff.  I spent a few hours in Wickenburg, visiting the art museum which was showing a yearly Cowgirl Up! exhibit that I found inspiring and delightful.  I also visited the Soroptimists Thrift Store a block or so away.  

I haven't listed anything on eBay for quite some time, but I am collecting what we in the antique business call "smalls" to mail to my friend January to sell in her consignment antique store in Truth or Consequences, NM.  Along the road, I have completely filled up a Flat Rate Priority Mail Medium Box which will ship for $12.65, and I have stuff to start the next box or two.  

 My campsite at White Spar Campground

From Wickenburg, I drove north on Highway 89 to the White Spar Campground in the Prescott National Forest, about three miles south of the town of Prescott.  It's a nice primitive (no hookups) campground, very cool at night, and I rested there for a couple of days.  

 A very nice almond croissant from Pangaea in Prescott

The morning I left, I stopped in historic downtown Prescott and found another fabulous stop for coffee and pastry, Pangaea Bakery & Cafe, where I had a remarkable almond croissant and a nice dark fair trade organic house roast.  If you're one of my early blog readers, you may remember that I have a passion for almond croissants and have reviewed them whenever I come across them in my travels.  Pangaea's was a little dry on the outside, perhaps from reheating, but Lord Almighty they know how to put the good stuff inside.  Many bakeries scrimp on the almond paste, but Pangaea's bakers add so much paste that the inside of the croissant has an exquisite custard-like layer.  

Bob Wells, leader of the pack

On leaving the bakery, I went to the Salvation Army for a few trinkets, then took quite a long drive to my next campsite.  I continued up Highway 89 to catch I-40 at Ash Fork, with stops at several thrift shops in Chino Valley.  And an awesome coincidence in Chino of stopping at a Circle K, only to find Bob Wells there, getting some water!  I've known Bob online for years, but this was my first opportunity to meet him in person.  Bob runs a helpful website called CheapRVLiving, and he gathers up people each year for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, where there is community and an exchange of useful information for living on the road.  He was also featured in a film about mobile living, along with my friend Christine Carrington and other full-timers.   

Just west of Ash Fork, I picked up an old portion of Route 66 that wasn't paved over to become an Interstate.  It goes through Seligman up to Grand Canyon Caverns, where I spent the night and took a tour the next morning. 

A picture taken of me by our tour guide at the bottom of the Grand Canyon Caverns

Grand Canyon Caverns is really kitschy and fun.  It was a huge contrast to Kartchner Caverns, which I've toured a couple of times.  Kartchner is a live cavern, where formations are still growing and the environment is fragile.  Kartchner is owned by the State of Arizona and there are lots of rules to protect it.  Grand Canyon Caverns, on the other hand, is a very dry cavern that has been in private ownership and used for tourism ever since it was discovered and found to not have any gold, silver or other valuable resources.  So the property includes a funky old motel and a barely-tended campground, and you're pretty much over a barrel--you have to spend at least $25 a night to camp there ($35 if you want hookups), plus the 20 bucks for the tour.  But it's fun.

Having blown my budget big-time at the Caverns, I saw no reason to slow down the next day.  I drove the rest of the Old Route 66 loop to Kingman.  Just as I was pulling into town, there was a big swap meet, where I stopped for more resale fodder and also managed to get a sunburn.  It is hot on the West Coast of Arizona!  Then I continued west and crossed the Colorado River into Laughlin, Nevada, where I spent the night at Harrah's Convenience Store, a Shell station across the street from the casino.  It's $7 to dry camp, and the casino will send a van over to pick you up when you want to go eat or gamble.  

While driving into Laughlin, I saw posters about Buddy Guy playing that night at the Edgewater, another casino about 1.5 miles down the strip from Harrah's.  I bought a ticket to the concert and took a cab up to the Edgewater because it was too hot to walk.  I enjoyed the concert immensely.  Buddy Guy does a lot of talking between and during songs.  Mid-song, he'll stop to pontificate on the blues or where music is going today or why people should love and respect one another.  He's a very hip 78-year-old who has recently added more foul language into his act, because, as he says, "After hip hop, what's stopping me?"  I loved his music and his patter.  I felt so energized afterwards that I walked the 1.5 miles back to my RV in the cooler evening. 

 Gourmet treats at the Harrah's Casino Sunday brunch buffet--lox, fresh asparagus, artichoke hearts, blintzes, a mini-waffle with fruit and whipped cream

Upon awakening in Laughlin the next morning, I decided a casino buffet Sunday brunch was in order, so I got the shuttle over to Harrah's and dove in.  The choices were so numerous that I could try only a small percentage of what was offered.  I stuck to things I don't usually eat in my RV, such as blintzes, lox, eggs Benedict, and creme brulee.  Then I headed back across the river to Bullhead City, Arizona, and stocked up at the grocery store for a few days of crossing the Mojave.

I spent last night at an RV park in Needles, California, called Fender's River Road Resort.  There are some motel rooms here and a few RV sites, some right along the Colorado River.  With my Passport America membership, this campground was $14.  This is the first time I've had hookups for over a week, and my Verizon connection has been good here for Internet, too.  So I spent last night and this morning catching up on stuff--a shower, laundry, getting out my computer to do some route planning and write this blog, and I even watched a little TV online last night, too.  

Today I am heading out to the Mojave National Preserve which has a campground at a higher elevation and thus cooler temps.  It's going to be 97 here in Needles this afternoon, but the highs are in the 70s up at the Preserve.  I'll probably stay there a night or two before taking on the next leg of crossing the hot desert. 

I'm keeping in touch with Steve every day and the current situation seems to be that his lab tests from his yearly physical indicated maybe more tests should be run, and Steve is deciding which of these to have.  He'll be seeing his regular physician again soon for some medication to address the gout, and to get advice on how far to pursue other tests, imaging, etc.  Then he wants to head back over to Truth or Consequences, NM, soon where he can stay in our big Class A motorhome with air conditioning.       



  1. Love the tie dye shirt! Happy to see you are happy and having a fun adventure!

  2. It sounds like you are having a wonderful time, MFS! I'm sorry that Steve is having medical issues and hope that he gets better soon!!