Kartchner Caverns….Benson, AZ

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Kartchner Caverns located outside Benson AZ is a State Park and is another jewel found in the desert. Here at Kartchner Caverns, they do not let you take pictures, in fact, the only thing you can take is the clothes you are wearing. They are very concerned about preserving this “living” cave in its most natural habitat without disturbing the balance of nature by the introduction of human fungus which could easily destroy and kill the caverns. So much work has gone into keeping these caves as free as possible of human contact. You enter through two separate tight sealed heavy doors so that air from the outside does not get in and upset the natural humidity of the caves. Special pathways were built in a way that they are rinsed and washed down every night. There are handrails to hold onto and the guides carry little red flags on their belt so that if by chance you bump into the cavern walls or little children touch they can flag it so that cleaners can clean where the cavern was touched.

Much work went into the development of Kartchner Caverns before being open to the public and being wheelchair accessible so that everyone could partake and enjoy the natural beauty of these caverns. Much of the work was done under plastic sheeting to keep dust and other debris from disturbing the natural cave. Much work was done by hand and hauling of rock and materials for the walk.

As I mentioned cameras are not allowed in Kartchner Caverns but obviously, there were times when the park let special photographers into the cave to capture the beauty and history. So the pictures you are seeing here are a selection I picked from the internet so that you could get a glimpse of these incredible caverns. Again the pictures do not do the cave justice in just how awesome, beautiful and mind-boggling they are.

A little history: Two young men Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen stumbled upon this cave in the early ’70s that was untouched and unseen for thousands of years and kept it a secret for 14 years while they explored what they had found. The land that the caverns sit on belonged to the Kartchner family. After the cave discovery and exploring the Kartchner family sold the caves to the State Park and the State Park along with the aide of  Randy and Gary, they set to work on creating access to the caverns for the public.

The formation of the Caverns took thousands of years to develop, but with the combination of limestone, water and carbonic acid three types of “speleothems” were forming. The first is a stalactite which slowly stretches down where water drips off the ceilings, a stalagmite is a buildup of calcite where the water hits the floor and a flowstone is the result of water running down the walls and taking on a crystalline appearance of a waterfall.

The variety of colors that are seen in the caverns depends on the mineral impurities in the calcite. Pure calcite is white, iron creates red, sulfur produces yellow, cooper makes green, and blacks or grays are caused by aluminum salts.

These are the path and walkways that were built for the public.

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Forms of Stalactite, Stalagmite, and Flowstone

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The tallest column “Kubla Khan” stands 58 feet high in what they call the “Throne Room.”

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Bacon draperies

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Here are two additional links on the Kartchner Caverns that are really good. Well worth reading

http://azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA/history.html

http://azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA/events_2009_cave_construct.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission San Xavier Del Boc…..Tucson, AZ

Mission San Xavier Del Boc is a jewel in the desert, it is only one of 3 Sonoran Desert Missions left which serves the locals as an active church for which it was built. The mission was built from 1783-1797 and is believed that the Tohono O’odham Indians helped build it.

Mission San Xavier is under continual restoration to preserve all the amazing artwork and history of the church. In the 1990s a 6-year restoration project was in full swing by several artists and curators from around the world to clean and repair the church and its artwork. There was a period of time that the church was almost in ruins with a leaking roof, squatters who brought their animals into the mission, built fires, etc. Part of the mission is a museum now and they also have a 25 minute PBS film that shows all the tedious work that went into saving Mission San Xavier. 

There are many mysteries about the mission, it has no records of who the architects, artists or builders were. It has been determined that there were three separate artists responsible for the paintings in the church. The whole inside of the church is covered in artwork with paintings and sculptures of styles similar to Spanish influence and native folk art of religious figures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Tucson Studios, Tucson AZ

I left Why, AZ January 25th and arrived in Tucson, AZ which was about a 3-hour drive.

I decided to visit “Old Tucson Studios” on January 27th. Old Tucson is located about 12 miles on the outskirts of Tucson in the Saguaro National Park. A perfect setting for an old west town with nothing but hills, desert, and cacti.

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I hope I don’t bore you with some history here, but again I feel history is important and you need to know about it so that the pictures and visiting tourist attractions have meaning. So here we go!

Old Tucson was originally built in 1939 by Columbia Pictures as a replica of the 1860’s Tucson for the filming of the western movie “Arizona,” starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. With the help of the Papago Indians, they built more than 100 structures of adobe and wood, some of which are still standing today.

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After the movie “Arizona” was completed, Columbia Pictures donated the Old Tucson set to Pima County. The authenticity of Old Tucson led to other movies and TV series being filmed here, and with those filmings, over the years more sets were constructed and those also became permanent additions to Old Tucson Studios.

Then along came a man named Bob Shelton who leased the property from Pima County and started to restore the aging studio. While being an active movie and television filming business he opened the studio set to the public in 1960 as an old west attraction. Shelton added mock gunfights, rodeos, and saloon entertainment along with gift shops and food venues in various buildings. Old Tucson soon became a leading tourist attraction.

In 1968, a 13,000 square foot soundstage was built to give the studio greater movie-making options.

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John Wayne starred in four movies at Old Tucson Studios:

  • Rio Bravo (1959) added a saloon, bank building, and doctor office
  • McLintock (1963) added the McLintock Hotel
  • El Dorado (1967) renovation of the storefronts on front street
  • Rio Lobo (1970) added a cantina, a granite-lined creek, a jail, and a ranch house

Other movies that were filmed:

  • Gunfight at O.K. Corral with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas & Dennis Hopper
  • The Three Amigos with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase & Martin Shot
  • The Last Outpost with Ronald Regan
  • Tombstone with Kurt Russell

Other scenes shot for TV series were also filmed here such as:

  • High Chaparral (1967-1971)
  • Little House On The Prairie
  • Father Murphy
  • Three Amigos

On April 25, 1995, a fire gutted most of Old Tucson Studios….three fourths of the sets wooden buildings were destroyed or damaged including the soundstage, the mission church and the cantina from Rio Lobo. Also lost were one of a kind artifacts such as Laura Ingalls dress she wore in Little House On The Prairie, the set designer for the TV series “Young Riders,” a priceless doll collection, Michael Landon’s wardrobe, and many, many old photos.

After almost 2 years of reconstruction, Old Tucson was re-opened on January 2, 1977. The sets that were lost were not recreated but instead entirely new buildings were constructed and streets widened. In 2011, a new project was started to build new movie-quality sets to fill out the park and restore the feel of close-together buildings and the look and feel of a genuine old west town again. The design and construction of new sets lead to creating sets for new movies such as “Young Guns II, The Great Gatsby, The Right Stuff, Raging Bull, Marathon Man, and the Three Days of Condor.” The project added a dressmaker shop, a general store, and a blacksmith.

So if you get the chance to come to Tucson, AZ you should check out Old Tucson Studios, it’s pretty awesome, full of history and entertainment.

 

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Pima Air & Space Museum-Tucson, AZ

On January 29, 2016, I headed off to see the Pima Air & Space Museum. It was just one exit away from where I was boondocking at the Flying J truck stop, so that was pretty convenient.

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Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest non-government funded aerospace museums. It is also the 3rd largest aerospace museum in the United States behind the Smithsonian in Washington DC and in Dayton, Ohio the hometown of the Wright Brothers.

Now I don’t know a lot about planes or what goes into how they name them and all that stuff, but what I do know is that they are a big part of history and that ever since the Wright Brothers first started trying to fly their first model of an airplane it was the beginning of a whole new era in-flight travel. As the years have gone by and with the ever-changing technology air flight just keeps changing…… making them better, faster and more interesting. I find all the different types, sizes, shapes, and colors of airplanes to be interesting and amazing!

When I first arrived at the Museum there were some very nice greeters who gave me a map and explained that there were 4 hangers of things to see including Space travel and 80 acres of airplanes. It was suggested that one could walk all this or they had a tram that would take you around to see all the airplanes that are outside the hangers. In addition, they also had a tour that took you by bus down the road a few miles to the AMARG (The 309th Aerospace Maintenance & Regeneration Group….also know as “The Boneyard”). I signed up for all of it.

In 2015, Boeing donated the second ever made 787 aircraft to the museum in the colors of the original 787 customer ANA.

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When you step into the first hangar you are welcomed by a tour guide who first introduces you to the model of the Wright Brothers’ first flight in North Carolina and tells you the story of the beginning of flight. The tour guides are all retired vets and have a vast amount of knowledge and an obvious love and enthusiasm for sharing great stories about these planes and their own stories as well which made the whole experience even more special. I followed along with the tour group for about a half-hour before I was scheduled to get on the 11:30 AM tram tour that would take us around to the planes outside. Here again, was a very knowledgeable vet who knew each and every one of the planes and had some tidbit to say about most of them. This tour lasted about an hour and was very interesting. I wish I had a tape recorder or a notebook so I could have remembered all the different planes and things he had to say about them. I took tons of pictures as they are all so different and interesting. At the end of the tram tour, you had the option to get off and visit the Memorial to the 390th B-17 Bomber plane and the men who flew them in WWII. This was a very nice museum and tribute to that group.

Just a few facts about the 390th Bombardment group: The unit was activated for WWII on January 26, 1943, with the 568th, 569th, 570th & 571st Bombardment Squadrons. They began their overseas flights on July 4, 1943. The 390th was highly successful in its missions during the war and was awarded the “Distinguished Unit Citation” award twice. Their last mission was flown on April 20, 1945, and inactivated in August 1945.

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“I’ll Be Around” is one of the only fully restored B-17 bombers around.

The “men” who fought in WWII were just young men as young as 18 years old. The WWII jackets they wore with the pin-up girls, favorite comic characters are an indicator of how young they were. The leather A-2 jacket had been the standard-issue since 1931. In WWII these jackets became a canvas for the teenage flyers to express their individuality. They would get the backs painted and often those images included the plane’s nickname with little bombs indicating how many missions the crew flew, on the front personalized patches would often reflect the squadron or bomb group they were with.

http://arizonaexperience.org/remember/390th-memorial-pima-air-space-museum

I got off my feet for a bit and had some lunch in the nice cafe they have there at the museum which looks out through ceiling to floor windows to the airplanes outside.

At the end of the day, I took the bus tour to the AMARG. Now the AMARG is the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. I was actually impressed to learn that these old planes are recycled, reactivated, parts reclaimed and then disposed of. I also found it mind-boggling the acres and acres of planes that are here. Most are sealed and shrink-wrapped to protect the sensitive parts of the aircraft from the hot Arizona sun.

THE BONEYARD PROJECT: RETURN TRIP

While we were out on the tram tour, I saw in the distance these three planes that were all painted up with artwork. The tour did not go out to these planes and the guide never mentioned them, so afterwards I walked out to these planes and took some pictures and then later I did some research on the internet as to what these planes were all about. What I found was that these were a Bone Yard Project of resurrecting planes through art. The idea came about in the Spring of 2010, it was a project to revive old planes from America’s military history through the creative intervention of contemporary artists, taking entire airplanes out of aeronautic resting spots in the desert known as “Boneyards” and putting them into the hands of artists.

This one is called “Back to Supersonica” 2013 by Kenny Scharf-Spray Paint on Lockheed VC-140

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This one  is called “Spy Tiger” by Andrew Schultz, done in acrylic on a Lockheed V140

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This one is called “Naughty Angels” by Faile,  done in acrylic on a Beechcraft C45

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Ajo – AZ Alley of Art

In the alley behind the plaza, artists have done some really awesome murals on the once white, blank walls. Chris and I took a walk through this alley one day and shot these pictures that I thought you might enjoy. Here is a link to more information about the artists, the artwork and how this art ended up in this alley.

http://tucsonmuralartsprogram.blogspot.com/2015/04/ajo-street-art-mural-project.html

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Crater Range – Ajo AZ

January 24, 2016- Today we (Chris, Marsha and I) took a hike to Crater Range which is 10 miles north of Ajo, AZ. Access to this area requires a permit, so we had to go to the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge to fill out a form and watch a half-hour safety video to receive a permit and a combination to the gate. Before entering the gate we had to call in our names, permit number, gate number and approximately how long we would be in the area. Then once we left the area we again had to call and let them know we were leaving.

We took a 2-hour hike that was fairly easy and flat terrain between rock spires and volcanic upheavals (No these are not my words. I googled the description of Crater Range cause we all know you guys are not going to go and look it up, your all to busy with other stuff in life and I wanted you to know about this area and what you were looking at when you view my pictures, so bear with me through the next little paragraph okay!)

Crater Range is comprised of several miles of “Volcanic Up Heavals.” The geology of the area is generally irregular lava flows, layers of porous rock and volcanic sedimentary rock. It is not a “crater” at all but is the erosional remains of volcanic features. The ridges are remains of dikes that are more resistant to weathering than the porous rock surrounding them. Numerous sharp spires were volcanic channels for molten magma, like the dikes, weather more slowly.

The mixture of the changing colors from black volcanic rock to reds, browns, and beiges along with the many forms of plants and cacti made this a stunning, beautiful work of art.

Ajo, AZ

Ajo….Pronounced “ah-ho” means “garlic” in Spanish, but historians believe the town got its name from a Tohono O’odham word meaning “place of colored clay.” Ajo is 10 miles North of Why AZ and today is mostly a retirement community and popular tourist attraction for attractions in the area.

We spent a couple days on and off in Ajo during our stay at the Coyote Howls campground in Why, AZ.  I want to share a little history of the place and a few attractions that we visited. If you want to know more about Ajo, AZ or John Campbell Greenway you can visit these two internet sites:

http://www.miningartifacts.org/Arizona-mines.html and http://www.mininghalloffame.org/page/john-campbell-greenway.

Ajo got its start as a mining town. With new recovery methods for low-grade ore, Ajo boomed. In 1911 John Campbell Greenway, a rough rider, and star Yale athlete bought the New Cornelia mine from John Boddie. In 1921 Phelps Dodge, the nation’s largest copper company bought the mine. For decades, more than 1,000 men worked for Phelps Dodge in the open-pit mine. The mine closed in 1985 due to falling copper prices.

Ajo open-pit mine was once the United States’ 3rd largest producer of Copper. This mine survived a merger, the great depression and the fluctuation of copper prices and is actually a monument to American History and persistence. Today you can view the New Cornelia open-pit mine from a lookout. The mine is fenced but it has openings in the fence that you can view the mine and take pictures. The mine is 1 1/2 miles wide and 1,100 feet deep. Next to the lookout is a small museum where you can see artifacts and mementos from Ajo and the mine’s past. The couple who operate the museum was so friendly and nice and were eager to share the history.  The man who is elderly now worked in the mine for 32 years.

 

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This was the last piece of iron that was poured from the mine.

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CROSS ON THE MOUNTAIN

Isabella Greenway, wife of John Campbell Greenway founded the Arizona Inn in Tucson and she became the first US Congresswoman. When her husband passed away she took a floral cross that the employees of the mine had made for her husband’s funeral and had it encased in concrete and carried to the top of the highest mountain in Ajo so she and the employees could view it from their homes.

The Plaza

The Plaza is a central location for the town of Ajo, it was created by John Campbell Greenway for a good place for his mine workers to raise their families. The plaza is a Spanish Colonial Style with high arches, white stucco surface, tile roofs, and decoration. Today it houses several shops, restaurants, post office, and visitor information center. On Saturday mornings, they have a farmers market with food, crafts, and entertainment.

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Ajo Historical Society Museum

The museum is located in the old St Catherine’s Indian Mission. You will find here many artifacts, displays, photos and memorabilia from Ajo, the mine, and the people.

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January 18-25th Yuma to Why, AZ

I left Yuma, AZ January 18th and drove three hours east, then south to a place called Why, AZ with my friend Chris.

So are any of you wondering where in the heck is Why, AZ?

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Well so was I …..It’s a tiny, rural community in Southern Arizona that is 30 miles from Mexico and 121 miles from Tucson, AZ. Why was named for the Y-shaped junction of highway 85 and highway 86 south of Ajo. At the time of the naming, Arizona law required all city names to have at least 3 letters so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y”. Arizona Department of transportation later removed the old Y-intersection for traffic safety reasons and built the two highways into a conventional T-intersection south of the original intersection.

Why is located in the Sonoran Desert and the landscape is beautiful. This is where the beautiful and grand “Saguaro” cactus grows in abundance. The giant Saguaro Cactus can reach heights of 50 ft and take 200 years to grow. You will also find here the Prickly Pear, Cholla, Barrell Cactus, Ocotillo along with Creosote bushes. Mixed in with these are the unique Organ Pipe Cactus, mesquite & Palo Verde trees.

I am still traveling with my friend, Chris and the reason we came here is to see some friends of hers that she met while RVing in South Dakota. Marsha and Mel are the sweetest people and have had quite an interesting life. They spend their winters here in Why, AZ at the Coyote Howls Campground and their summers in Rapid City, South Dakota. So Coyote Howls Campground is where we are spending our week and this place is awesome. It is very remote and out in the middle of nowhere, but it has a special kind of feel to it.

Here is Marsha and my friend Chris

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This is the view from Marsha and Mel’s campsite and the little yard they fixed up

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I have to share some history with you about Coyote Howl Campground: Coyote Howl campground and RV park are in the heart of the Arizona Sonoran Desert surrounded by low mountains, desert vegetation, and wildlife such as quail, rabbits, coyotes, and burrows. Coyote Howl is a combination of two campgrounds: Coyote Howl East and Coyote Howl West – The East campground consists of nearly 208 acres with 600 “primitive camps” with no hookups. RV’s need to be self-contained. There are showers, restrooms, dump stations and some water faucets scattered throughout the campground. All you need is a generator or solar panels and your good to go. The west campground has 38 full hookup sites.

A couple named James and Peggy Kater moved to Why in 1949 and built a pub, a restaurant, a store and post office. Water was brought in from Ajo-ten miles away. As more people came to “Why” a well was developed and electricity brought in. During this time, many older people were coming and parking their trailers at what is now a highway rest stop. Many of these people hoped to stay in Why permanently, but the county health department was concerned about the sanitary conditions so they decided the campers had to go. So, some permanent residents of Why decided to apply to the BLM for 122 acres for a trailer court and campground. They were able to get a special permit from the health department if a park could be installed in 30 days.  Almost everyone pitched in and in 30 days, the park was ready. The park included roads, restrooms and hot water for showers.  A man named Virgil Denning provided the heavy machinery, others did the labor. The water lines were dug by the women and children. Those that were too old to do heavy labor cooked stew and chili beans for the workers.

Eventually, the people who came to cherish Why joined together to build a community center. The community center is busy during the winter season with many activities that appeal to everyone. During the summer season, many of the residents move out due to the high summer temperatures.

Here are some pictures of the campground and views:

This hillside picture here is the view from my RV

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On our first day out we took the 10.4 mile Ajo scenic loop – Here are some pictures:

This one looked like a cow pile LOL

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And yes this area is known for this type of activity!

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And to finish off the day a beautiful, fiery sunset

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – Ajo AZ

Today, January 20, 2016, we (I, Chris and Marsha) took a drive to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Oh! my goodness, what a gorgeous place. We first stopped at the visitor center and watched a movie and listened to a park ranger talk to us about three different types of Cacti and some of the wildlife who live there. We then took a 20-mile scenic loop drive in the park and saw all this beauty that God has created.

This is a Saguaro Cactus-The Saguaro often gets its start under a nurse tree called Palo Verde. Temperatures, humidity and soil conditions are more favorable and constant under the Palo Verde tree. As the cactus matures, it competes with the nurse tree for moisture. Over time, the nurse tree weakens and dies from lack of water.

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Prickly Pear Cactus

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Creosote Bush

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Jumping Cholla

As you can see this Cholla has branches going all over the place with these things hanging off them. This is a very spiny cactus with several irregular, jointed branches that are sharp-barbed spines that are painful and difficult to remove. Because these joints separate easily, it sometimes appears to “jump” to attack you.

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Saguaro

Little bird on top of a Saguaro

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My friend, Chris standing almost on top of the world

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Sun setting-Perfect ending to a perfect day

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January 11-17th Road to Yuma and my stay in Yuma, AZ

As it turns out I was glad that I did not start my trip to Yuma the night before. I told myself I was not going to drive at night, but after the whole delay with the tires I was so anxious to get to Yuma, but after making the drive to Yuma and how long it took me and having to go over a very long, windy pass I was glad I was making it during the day and on top of it, it was a pretty drive.

These rocks were amazing, they are just boulders stacked in piles and some in interesting designs. Pretty wild!

Lots of wind and there was plenty of windmills to make all kinds of energy! I think I had to deal with some pretty harsh, hard winds for about 80 miles, it was a tough go!

I drove through a little town called Soledad and at the entrance sign to the town it said “Highway to the Pinnacles” so I stopped and asked about it and was told it was just a 20-minute trip, but I did neglect to mention I was in a 34 ft motorhome. So I started out for the Pinnacles and for some reason I decided to pull off in an entrance to one of the Vineyards which was just before the turnoff to the Pinnacles. A guy pulled up beside me and asked if I was going to the Pinnacles. I said yes and he said well it’s only a one-lane road, I don’t think you are going to make it in your RV. Now there is another entrance from the next town but it is at least an hour’s drive and still a tough go on a two-lane road for an RV. I thanked the man for the heads up and decided it wasn’t in the cards that day to see the Pinnacles, but I did get these few pictures of the vineyards and mountains.

So I arrived in Yuma, AZ  Tuesday evening, got myself all settled into the RV park and actually succeeded in getting all my hooks up hooked upright for my first attempt on this trip! I met up with my friend from high school Chris. She has been an RV traveler for about a year now. I was excited to get here and hang out and do a little traveling with her. Our first tourist outing was Wednesday to the Yuma Territorial Prison. This was a very interesting and historical place. It was used for about 4 years for the Yuma High school, they were called the Yuma Criminals and still are to this day.

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My friend, Chris….She says she is innocent!  Hmmm, I don’t know about that LOL.

This was the dark cell, the place you got thrown into if you were a problem prisoner. I would not have wanted to be put here, I had some light from the doorway but the rest was pitch black and it was pretty spooky. In the middle of the room was this iron grate and the prisons would be shackled around it. There were no beds, no place for bathroom facilities. This was a hell hole!

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This was the prison yard

I guess my friend was innocent, they let her go and she was happy!

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This was the lookout tower and the view from it inside the prison walls as well as outside the prison.

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For the most part, Yuma has been my first stop to finally just have some downtime and relax after being on the go for the last couple of months with getting ready for this adventure and glitches in my first couple of weeks. Chris and I have had a fun time hanging out, taking in a few activities at the RV park…..Bingo, dinners, and entertainment. We have met new friends and met some awesome people this week. The weather has been awesome in the ’70s and today Sunday, January 17th was so nice I took a dip in the pool and the hot tub! Wow! it is awesome to be wearing shorts and swimming in the middle of January. I am so sorry that the rest of you back home are getting rain and cold weather. I know we need the moisture but I am glad to be where there is warmth and sunshine.