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Random thoughts and pictures from our travels in a LazyDaze motorhome.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Empire Ranch HQ


The Empire Ranch HQ sits just above a stream. As is the case in the arid Southwest, you can assume water is not far away from large trees such as these Black Cottonwoods. These trees are self-pruning, meaning you don’t want to camp near these trees when a one ton limb falls off. The link says that a tree in Alaska is the record holder, but other documentation has a 140 footer in Oregon. I’d guess these trees are at least 200 years old. It was definitely cooler walking under them.


As you can see in this image, the ranch house was expanded at various intervals. This is a view looking from the east.


Same timing as in the previous image except the view is looking to the south. The bay window was added by Walter Vail for his new bride Margaret. She brought $10,000 into the enterprise, and thusly a requirement to keep her happy was paramount.


Many parties where held at the ranch through the 30s into the 1950s. You can see how lush the property was at that time. It even had a swimming pool.


Here is a shot of the breezeway through the original portion of the house. Cowboy quarters were to the left after other sections of the house were added.


This is the view out of the cowboy quarters looking to the east. Cowboys were given one day off a month with pay averaging $10-15 a month in the 1800s.


This is the current condition of the ranch house, the view of the west looking east. That small addition is the master bath. All that area to the right used to be a lush garden with the pool on the right edge of the image. The original portion is on the far left side.


Here is a view from the north side looking south. Inside, the house is very cool and quite livable. No one has lived in the house since the late 1980s. Again, the original portion is on the left side with bracing on the walls. Add about $30,000 worth of landscaping and you’d have a pretty neat place!


Lastly, a large oak tree about a mile from the house near an intermittent steam.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Las Cienegas Backroads


This is the road back to our campsite. We took about a 2.5 mile hike toward the ranch headquarters for our exercise that morning. It was cool, about 55 degrees, so I had on a pullover. I had my keys zippered in a pocket. By the time I reached the end of the roadway from our campsite, I had taken the pullover off and tossed it near a mesquite tree. After we had hiked another 2 miles, Carla asked if I had the keys. Oh NO, they are in my pullover! To say the least, she was NOT a happy camper! She figured somebody had already taken the pullover and that we would be stuck here. So, we jogged back as fast as we could. No problem, the pullover was still there. Three vehicles had passed us, but I held the faith. I did learn a valuable lesson however.


There are decent gravel/sand roads across the area that allow exploring. This is what we saw after topping a ridge. This is looking eastward.


A view to the south.


Abandoned water pumper.


You can see how the shrubs are expanding up the ridges out of the draws.


I think this is a fantastic photo. Movies were filmed here with many big name stars. Red River, Hombre, The Covvboys, Big Country, Episodes of Bonanza and Gunsmoke, Outlaw Josie Wales, and on and on. Here is a listing. It was a fun afternoon!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Arriving Las Cienegas NCA


Las Cienegas National Conservation Area is located just northeast of Sonoita AZ. It is essentially a scaled down version of the huge Empire Ranch. The ranch began as a 160 acre homestead before 1876. Remembering your history, this land was a part of Mexico until the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. Through the years, more land was acquired until the ranch extended 60 miles north-south and 30 miles east-west!  Now, it belongs to YOU! Please read the Empire Ranch link, its history is fascinating!


Boondocking is allowed in previously camped in areas. Here is our spot.


As you can see, the terrain is rolling grassland with invading mesquite trees.


Sun setting to the west. We are at a turn around before a gate. You can go through the gate, but this spot looked good.


As the sun set in the west, crepuscular rays blasted the distant mountains with light.




Yeah, we picked a good spot.

Monday, February 24, 2014



The evening before we left Yuma we went out with our friends to a local pizza joint. Although I would not call this place a joint. It was quite nice inside, and it had wonderful pizza, and cold beer!


A shot of the motley crew. l-r Gayle, Jim, myself, Jim again, and Debbie.


The morning we exited, this guy was hanging just outside of Debbie’s rig. She was in Mexico at the time.


We traveled back east to Maricopa and the Ak-Chin Casino, which is just south of Phoenix. Along the way, we weighed the rig. We weighed 12800 lbs with full water and 7/8ths tank of gas. The Jeep weighed 3580, heavier than I thought. Maximum weight is 14050, so we are doing very well weight-wise. This is a cool statue near the entrance of the casino. RVs can normally park at casinos for free, albeit a bit noisy at times. The casino may provide free Internet, which was the case at Ak-Chin.


One of reasons we stopped here was to visit with Carla’s cousin, Thesie and John. They full-time in a Newmar rig at Apache Junction through the winter. Just think if I had John’s hair!


We try to do at least 45-60 minutes of brisk walking every other day, and this is what we found on the other side of the hotel. Underground homes for burrowing owls.


They were in attendance too! His/her mate was nearby.


Our youngest grandson’s birthday, Asa was the 22nd. We were delighted to check in during his first birthday party via Skype. He was having a great time, and why not? He was surrounded by great woman, and his Dad was cooking! He is SOO cute and already a chick magnet. This is casino stop #2, except in Tucson. We like Tucson and especially this casino, being our first time here. It has a HUGE RV parking lot, fairly level and little noise. No free Internet access though, but what the heck. It is very nice.


Our friend Jim likes Foretravel Class A rigs. He and many others consider Foretravels to be the best Class A’s built. This one is something else.


At least 400 if not 600 watts of solar power. Probably motorized so that the owner does not have to climb up on the roof. Anybody hazard a guess on the cost of this rig?


A nice sunset at Ak-Chin.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Imperial Dam


Carla, I and Debbie took a short drive north to the Imperial Dam area to check it out. This dam is quite different than any that I had seen before. It’s actually more of a big retaining wall with siltation and diversion sections. This is part of the reservoir behind the dam.


This is a bad photo of the arcing portion of the dam that leads into the siltation areas. The main dam is beyond the picture in the background. You can a better idea of the layout from the Imperial Dam link. The area to the immediate right of the photo is a small picnic and camping area. A few weird people occupied the parking area…and I mean weird.


A better shot of the arcing dam portion.


No one was around to fill us in on what these devices are specifically, but I would surmise they are part of the siltation removal system.


Farther upstream is a nice boat launching area. The dam is off to the left in the distance. The juxtaposition of solid rock and water seems strange to me.


The previous photo was taken on top of a small dam looking below into the reservoir. This is was the small dam is holding back.


The entire area below and to the immediate west of the Imperial Dam is called the Imperial Dam Long Term Vistor Area. You can dry camp or boondock here for up to 7 months for $180. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management which controls thousands of acres in the west. Water, waste pickup, and dump stations are provided. Talk about cheap living! There are other LTVAs in the southwest. The nearest town is Yuma, and you can imagine the economic impact. Many RVers form small cliques or towns by clumping together. A few erect small structures and have rock-lined driveways with solar lights!


These burros roam the area as well. Left behind by the Spanish? As you can see the terrain is not much good for anything else. Few plants grow here, so why not have a cheap place for people to gather.



A nice end to the day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Yuma Territorial Prison


No, this is NOT the prison. IN-N-OUT is a chain of hamburger joints out of California. They are quite popular and are slowly expanding eastward. They have been in business a long time, since 1948. It is family owned and treat their workers well. They are very adequately staffed, and the people seem to LIKE to work there! I think their fries are the best. They essentially grew up with the drag racing scene that got established in southern California in the 50s and 60s to the present day. You will occasional see an IN-N-OUT sponsored car on the national drag racing circuits.


This is the prison, built on a bluff along the Colorado River. Conquistadors crossed the river here in the 1500s. The river is in flood.


This is the guard tower. I pushed the light so that you can the the interior of the structure. The tower covered the prison’s water supply.


A view looking northward across the river to another bluff. That steel bridge was built in the early 1900s. Before that, you had to use a ferry to get across. Remember, the Colorado was not dammed until the 1930s and later, so flooding expanded the river to 5-10 miles wide at times. So, the two bluffs were the most logical place to cross. What you see is the current administration building and parade ground. Other types of buildings occupied this area originally.


This is an active Catholic Church. Built a LONG time ago.


A view looking east of the Colorado and bottom land from the tower. During floods before the dams, this would be underwater. Yuma is beautifying the river front.


A view to the north.


Not a good picture, but this is the Sally Port into the prison. In the right  background you can see the elevated concrete supports for Interstate 8. The prisoners would be dumbfounded today.



The Sally Port. No, that is not Sally. A breakout occurred here in the late 1800s, with several prisoners being shot dead.


The prison had one of these.



Interesting inmates at Yuma Territorial Prison. Over 3000 called the Yuma prison home through its 33 year history, including 29 women. Actually, the prison was ahead of its time, with running water, electricity, and a hospital by the 1890s. People living around Yuma at the time thought it was a place of luxury.


If you managed to escape, this guys would be on your tail like tics.


Six people per cell. The cells run east/west…so I am sure the prisoners loved the southern exposure after being outside all day in 115F heat.


The cells were back to back on the southern block.


With beds.


There were about 200 deaths at the prison, most from diseases, namely tuberculosis.


If you were bad, you ended up here. Yes, she is a bad girl ;)


You were thrown in, chained to the floor with bread and water once a day. Nearly total darkness. You could be by yourself, or have lots of company. No restroom breaks either. The longest stay was over a 100 days. The man was a model prisoner after that. Most were in for several days. Women were sent in by themselves.


Yes, the prison had a library!


The southern bloc, all built by prison labor. More than one movie has had some filming done here, with numerous mentions in various westerns through the years. I was surprised at the number of prisoners incarcerated for selling liquor to Native Americans, adultery and polygamy. The world keeps on turning…