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1st - 31st October 2017 - California - Arizona back to California - Baja, Mexico

Sunday 1st October

Tony is now feeling fit and well again, we left Petaluma on the US 101 south to San Rafael where we crossed San Francisco Bay on the 580. In heavy traffic we travelled along the east bay through Richmond and Berkeley.

Continued south down Silicon Valley to San Jose where we picked up the 101 again to our destination just north of San Luis Obispo. The concrete roads here are hard going, with plenty of potholes.

South of San Jose we came to Salinas and Monterey. Salinas is well known for being the birth place of John Steinbeck. A predominately agricultural area with salad crop farms and vineyards all along a wide valley, overlooked by golden hillsides. The historic name for the US 101 here is El Camino Real (The Royal Road) because it runs roughly along the old trail linking the Spanish missions and towns.

Our stop for the night was in Paso Robles at The Vines RV Resort a very smart park with hotel facilities.

Peter and Suzy were already there and we went out of dinner at the Firestone Walker Brewing Company. The brewery had a really good menu with a different range of food than usual which made it difficult to choose. In the end I had chicken Masala.

They had an interesting feature in the bar, cans circling around, conveyor belt style.

Monday 2nd October

We said another goodbye to Peter and Suzan. They are staying on in Paso Robles for a week before moving east. Our journey also took us east from the 101 onto State Route 46, passing through Cholame where James Dean died in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1955. We continued through grassland, rolling hills and passed by cattle ranches. After a stretch of prairie flat land we came across a field full of 'nodding donkeys' extracting oil, quite a weird sight.

Climbed through 3000 feet into the Tehachapi Mountains and descended into the Mojave Desert area. It was an enjoyable trip across California. We kept off the interstates, the roads were mainly good and we saw some interesting small towns and landscapes.

Arriving at our destination, Twentynine Palms in eastern California late afternoon. This is an oasis town and the 29 palms trees for which the town is named were planted centuries ago by members of the Serrano tribe. They named it ‘the place of little springs and much grass”. Our campsite was, guess, the Twentynine Palms RV Resort. A nice park at the back of the town on the edge of the desert, next to a golf course.

For dinner we went to, guess where, the 29 Palms Inn. There has been a hotel of some form on this spot since the 1920’s. The hotel building has a simple retro style and there are two huge California fan palms next to the swimming pool, two of the twentynine.

Makes a change to have a non smiley photo.

Tuesday 3rd October

Joshua Tree National Park is a place of boulders, unusual plants and desert. In fact, two deserts; to the west is the Mojave Desert rising 3,000 feet above sea level, where amongst the boulders the Joshua Tree and other trees and cacti grow and bloom, to the east is the Colorado Desert below 3,000 feet and part of the larger Sonoran Desert that stretches into Arizona and Mexico.

The Joshua Tree is actually a type of yucca.

Keys View, a lookout across the Coachella Valley. The San Andreas Fault runs through the valley. On a clear day it is possible to see the Mexican border but often there is a haze that obscures the view. The haze is caused by air pollution that blows into the valley from industrial areas of Southern California. The National Parks Service say the pollution comes from the growth of urban areas in the Valley and from the Los Angeles basin, with a population over 12 million.

We could just see Palm Springs through the haze.

Town town for lunch.

Wednesday 4th October

Oasis of Mara – ‘the place of little springs and much grass’ the place where it all started.

Thursday 5th October

Departed Twentynine Palms along the Pinto Basin Road, through Joshua Tree NP.

On route we passed the Cholla Cactus Garden

Crossed into Arizona and pulled into Mesa\Apache Junction KOA, east of Phoenix.

Found a good local bar for dinner.

Friday 6th October

Simon and Ninette flew into Sky Harbor Airport after their trip to Maui. Ninette had Ucayali lessons whilst there and gave us a couple of numbers on her new Ucayali.

Saturday 7th October

Went into Scottsdale this morning, one of the towns in the greater Phoenix area. We went to Old Town where there are old cowboy town style buildings and sidewalks., of shops and art galleries and then to The Montauk for breakfast. Restaurant with busy urban vibe and live music playing to entertain the brunch crowd.

This afternoon we travelled north through Tonto National Forest past cactus desert to explore more of Arizona. Climbed to 7,000 feet through Ponderosa Forest with views over wide valleys.

Pulled into Distant Drums RV Resort, a Yavapai-Apache Nation Resort and Casino ($46 per night before Good Sam discount) in Camp Verde, Verde Valley.

Went for a swim and hot tub, met up by chance with Moira and Graeme, an English couple we first met in Los Barriles, it was great to see them again.

We all went to the Casino for dinner, where drinks and food are very reasonable and good quality.

Transport to and from the casino is provide

Sunday 8th October


The Verde Valley has a river running through and is surrounded by mountains. Today we travelled across the valley to Sedona through the magnificent red rock country. We stopped off to marvel at some of these red rock formations named for their shapes such as Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The town of Sedona was buzzing with lots of people and shops, particularly art and crafts stores. A nice town with a great backdrop of red rock wherever you look.

Blazin’ M Ranch

This evening we went back into the Verde Valley to the town of Cottonwood and the Blazin’ M Ranch. We were having a Chuckwagon Dinner of BBQ Chicken and Baby Back Ribs, Beans, Baked Potato, Prickly Pear Coleslaw, Flyin Biscuits. Before dinner there was a chance to go to the shooting gallery and try a Colt .45 (wax bullets), learn how to rope from a cowpoke and go to the Copper Spur Saloon for a shot of Red Eye. However, by the time we got there the dinner bell rang for us to go to the barn and eat[TH1] .

Dinner was good and plentiful. Afterwards we sat back to enjoy a little cowboy theatre with wild west drama, comedy and two excellent leading ladies.

After the show we moseyed along to Miss Kitty’s Saloon to have a photo.

The Wild Bunch

Monday 9th October

Twenty four miles north west of Cape Verde is the historic mining town of Jerome.

The car radiator had been over heating and the winding drive up to Jerome was all too much for it. As we reached the edge of town we had to stop and let things cool down.

Jerome is perched on the side of Cleopatra Hill

Jerome is perched on the side of Cleopatra Hill and in its mining heyday had almost 15,000 residents. When the mines shut down in the 1950’s the population was below 100 and the town became known as a ghost town. Today it is a thriving tourist town and many of the old buildings survive. The town is built on a steep hill and has many stairways to climb between streets. Many of the historic buildings have been restored and turned into shops, galleries, restaurants and B&B’s

We headed to the top of town to the Jerome Grand Hotel which was a community hospital in the towns mining era.

The Asylum Restaurant has a nice patio with views across the valley and was a great spot for lunch.

The hotel and restaurant are all decorated up for Halloween.

Tuesday 10th October

Travelled along the I-17 south to Tucson. Got to Tucson Lazydays KOA at lunch time. Went to the Texas style BBQ Restaurant on site for lunch. Tony and Simon took the car to a local auto repair shop. Moira and Graeme were already here.

Wednesday 11th October

Pool time.

Thursday 12th October

Took the I-19 south towards the border and paid a visit to Tubac and the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

Peter and Suzan arrived.

Friday 13th October