Rush to the Southwest

Back in the Southwest, we get a beautiful sunset almost every night.

February 2 – 16, 2020.

We are so lucky. We have a nine-pack of toilet paper. I have bought TP twice this year. I know because I keep meticulous track of everything we buy. If my numbers are correct, we use anywhere from a roll to a roll and a half of TP each week – so we are good for at least another 6 weeks. Yay! for meticulous tracking.

We are lucky. The biggest inconvenience we have suffered is standing in line at Trader Joe’s. They were only letting so many people in at a time. The wait wasn’t long, the weather was beautiful (we are in Tucson) and our TJ experience was so much better! Fewer people – no crowded aisles. We think TJs should do this all the time!

We are lucky. We have a great place to stay in Tucson – a big vacant lot owned by friends. This lot sits on the road directly in front of their house. We have the advantage of being socially distant while still being close to grocery stores. And our friends like having us here – we joke that it’s just because we will be the first line of defense when society completely breaks down and the War Lords come. When our friends hear our screams they will know to be prepared.

This post was intended to be about the little (and big) disasters in life that throw us off track but ultimately lead to something positive. Like our VW Van that finally bit the dust but ended up convincing us that perhaps a tiny 33-year-old van wasn’t for us. Or the time we lost our forestay and headsail in the Gulf Stream when we were sailing to Mexico. The boat was broken, we had to turn around, and it was a tad bit scary but when we finally were able to leave Key West to return our marina and have the boat hauled out we got to see a part of Florida that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And once we got back on land, we sold the VW and purchased our beloved Ballena Blanca (the current van). Then there was the time in Mexico that our computer broke. It ended up costing us lots of money but we would have never visited Guadalajara if it hadn’t. This fall we had numerous van problems that cost us even more money but the upside was that we ended up on a different route across the country than we had originally intended. I’m so glad we got to experience the Forgotten Coast of Florida and beach camping in Texas. And then finally more recently, Greg lost a crown. We had to leave Texas sooner than I would have liked and rush to the dentist in Los Algodones Mexico. But on the upside, we found ourselves in the southwest just in time to experience a couple of events that we would have missed if we’d lingered longer in Texas.

And now there is COVID-19. Campgrounds are closed. National Parks are closed. Borders are closed. We have been planning to leave Arizona in the Spring, head up the West coast, up through British Columbia and Yukon, ending up in Alaska. The Canadian border is closed, cities are quarantined, and who knows, whole states might be next. We are still planning for Alaska but we are also prepared to readjust those plans.

When I started writing this post I realized that readjusting is something that everyone is going through now. People are trying to figure out the facts, new recommendations, new rules. People are sick, losing their jobs, deciding what to do about funerals, canceling plans, and readjusting the normal things they do every day.

My hope is that this disaster will put us on a better path. And that we will be able to pull together (separately, of course), recover from the many losses, and find a better country, a better world at the end of it.


On to the blog..

After our visit to Big Bend, we needed to make tracks to the dentist. But because we were already on the trail of the Buffalo Soldiers we first made a little afternoon stop in Fort Davis along the way.

Fort Davis National Historic Site

We wrote a bit about our visit to Fort Davis in our previous post about the Buffalo Soldiers. Here are a few other things we saw.

Fort Davis had many buildings you can explore with rooms staged with period pieces as well as a barn with various forms of artillery. Here is a Gatling gun.

We have visited 3 forts since the fall. And at each fort, we have learned a little more about 19th-century medicine. It was all pretty unpleasant. At least the hospital at Fort Davis had an amazing view.

The infirmary inside the hospital.

As you walk up to the hospital signs tell you the stories of 6 patients including infantrymen, officers, and the family of officers that fell ill from various causes. Once inside the building you learn their fate and what kind of medical tools were used to try to cure them – like these pictured here.

GeoAstroRV

One of the upsides of our rush to the dentist was the opportunity to attend an astronomy event in the desert by GeoAstroRV. This husband and wife team (John and Brenda) drives around the country giving free astronomy presentations. The presentation we attended was held off-grid in the California desert on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.

Before the night’s presentation, John assembles the 20″ F5 Dobsonian telescope.

John checks out the drive for the scope. After dark, all the scopes will be oriented by pointing them to two known stars. After that remote controls can steer to any spot in the night sky. The eyepiece for this scope is sticking out of the upper cylinder pointing toward John’s right shoulder. He has a large selection of eyepieces. Depending on what the scope is pointed at you may have to stand on the 8′ ladder (behind scope in this pic) to look through the eyepiece.

To the right is John and Brenda’s Thor Aria rig, and to the left is the customized trailer they use to haul telescopes. The trailer was customized by Mobile Solar. It has 3.7 kilowatts of solar feeding a 3,000 lb. forklift battery. The solar panels stretching over the roof can handle wind speeds of 60 MPH. They can be removed, but normally stay deployed. They carry all this power not only for their own use but for the use of anyone who wants to camp with them but isn’t prepared or equipped to be off the grid.

John and Brenda’s Tele View scope.

John explains how the use of mirrors allows for a shorter body in this scope. This one was brought by another nebula-gazing boondocker.

We had a full moon the night of our astronomy presentation so there was some light pollution. But we did get amazing views of the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, Betelgeuse, and the craters of the Moon. You should check out some of their pictures online.

The next day after the astronomy presentation we went for a hike around the area.

We found lots of mining claims on one of our hikes. Not sure what people are mining for here but I suspect that this guy hasn’t found much of anything

A little color in the desert.

Our next vehicle will be a 4 wheel drive. Then we will be able to go down all these back roads in the desert.

Fort Verde State Historic Park

Changing our plans to head west earlier also gave us the chance to attend the Buffalo Soldiers Festival at Fort Verde State Historic Park in Arizona. We wrote what we learned about Buffalo Soldiers that day in our Buffalo Soldiers post but there were also few other things going on that day in the park.

The park has a small museum where we learned about Apache Indian Scouts who worked with the military. Brigadier General Crook claimed that US Military efforts against the tribes would have been useless without scouts. They were paid regular Army wages, and helped during the Navajo and Yavapai Wars and in Pershing’s hunt for Pancho Villa in Mexico. They helped capture Geronimo. Afterwards, Geronimo and his warriors were sequestered Ft. Pickens in Pensacola. FL. The scouts’ rewards? Also sent to Ft. Pickens over General Crook’s objections.

Outside they were holding an old-time baseball game.

Besides the uniforms, the rules were also a little different from modern-day baseball. No gloves. And it’s only a strike if you swing.

Did I mention that we have been learning lots more about 19th-century medicine? So glad leeches are no longer part of a modern doctor’s repertoire.

A medical reenactor tells us how ether was administered.

Amputation tools.

Brain corer and bullet removing tools.

Like other forts, we have visited there were various staged rooms on display in the buildings – like this creepy medical room.

Verde Valley Archaeology Center

Right down the street from Fort Verde we found the Verde Valley Archaeology Center.

The museum had many exhibits about ancient Native Americans from the area but their real treasure was the Paul Dyck Exhibit. In the early 1960 Dyck, a painter who owned land in nearby Rimrock, AZ, asked archaeologist, Dr. Charles Rozaire, to excavate a cliff dwelling on his property. Excavations were conducted for 10 years between 1962 to 1972 but the artifacts recovered were never displayed until after Dyck’s death in 2006. In 2014 Dyck’s son contacted Verde Valley to ask if they were interested in the collection. Since then volunteers have been tagging the thousands of pieces in the collection. A fraction of these important artifacts can be seen on display in the museum.

Montezuma Castle & Montezuma Well

We had no idea that Montezuma Castle National Monument and Montezuma Well were close to Fort Verde but when we saw the signs we decided we had to give them a visit before we left the area.

Montezuma Castle was named by European-Americans in the 1860s thinking that the Aztec Emporer, Montezuma, was connected to its construction. This turned out to be untrue. The dwellings were occupied by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian culture that occupied an area of central Arizona between approximately 500 CE and 1425 CE. The name Sinauga comes from the Spanish words “sin” meaning “without” and “agua” meaning “water.” The Spanish explorers who came up with this term were surprised that the large mountains in the area did not have the kind rivers flowing from them as there was in Spain.

The main structure at Montezuma Castle has five stories, has 45 to 60 rooms, and was built over three centuries. Here is a snapshot from a video of how they believe the interior of the cliff dwelling would have looked. 

Montezuma Well is just a short drive down the road from the “Castle.” The well is a natural limestone sinkhole through which about 1,500,000 gallons of water emerge a day from an underground spring. The water spills out through a cave into an ancient irrigation ditch dug by Native Americans. But don’t drink! The water contains arsenic.   

There is also dwellings at the “Well.” This abode was right along the well at ground level.

And this one was high on a cliff overlooking the water.


Have you ever had a sudden change of plans that led to something else positive? How are you currently having to readjust your life due to COVID-19? Please leave us a comment below. We love hearing from you!

6 thoughts on “Rush to the Southwest

  1. Debbie Knebel said:

    Great to hear from you guys and know that you are safe and sheltered. We are good – staying at home. Really enjoy your blogs and the history that you share. Much has been cancelled – schools, Skunkfest, restaurants closed except for take out – no gatherings of more than 10 and best practice is to remain at home.
    I just returned from Aiken where we went horseback riding. Much changed from when we left on Friday and returned on Monday. Fortunately, we were out of doors most of the time – sprayed our entire room down and wiped with disinfectant and kept our distances. You guys stay safe!!! HUGS!

    • Duwan said:

      Things sure did change quickly. We were out in the wilderness last week and when we came back to town everything was different.

      Thanks for the update. Glad you guys are ok. Hopefully come fall Skunkfest will be back on!

  2. Michelle Littlejohn said:

    Glad you are in Arizona and settled in. We got home yesterday and are glad to be here, but we still didn’t get to experience our first 2 week road trip. I have groceried up and plan lots of yard work and starting my spring garden, knitting, reading etc. walk the neighborhood daily, check on friends and family via FB, email, and phone. I am so glad I don’t need to go to the nursing home anymore either. I am worried for the friends we left there when Mom died. I am worried for my friends at the hospital. Debbie C already is sick and she didn’t work in the main hospital but in their offices downtown. We were very mindful of cleaning our hands all the time we were away, but we still could come down sick. We all could come down sick. We must obey the social distancing and flatten the curve. We all need to love one another and think of the greater good.

    • Duwan said:

      Yes, hopefully, people are thinking of the greater good – and reaching out (at a distance) to those who aren’t as lucky as us.

      So sorry your trip got cut short – but so glad you were able to hang out with Ariadne. She said she had fun.

      Some of our habits have changed. Besides being more diligent about washing hands we are no longer using public toilets – which we often did in order to not have to clean and dump our composting potty as often. But not anymore. I am so glad I have my own potty that I take with us where ever we go.

  3. You are a positivist, Duwan! I have a hard time seeing the benefits when something changes that we looked forward to or planned for (like a few potential job opportunities recently). I often try hard to see the why for these actions and changes, but rarely can.

    Wow, you managed to still fit a lot in on your “rush” west. Haha, you two are amazing explorers. I also like how you’ve visited a few museums now where the stories of several people are portrayed throughout the exhibit.

    I hope you guys have found a nice camping spot in the NWR. Here, in Florida, Georgia, and further north National Forest campgrounds are closing… 🙁 We will see how this goes.

    • Duwan said:

      Since we started traveling I have felt that our lives are very tenuous. It can sometimes make me feel uneasy but I’ve learned that we have no other choice but to work through whatever problem comes up or the consequences could be dire (like when we lost our headsail crossing to Mexico). Perhaps I’m a positivist by necessity?

      I really hate that you have had so many disappointments but I believe that both you and Mark are very resourceful and you will get to a better place. But I do understand how frustrating and disappointing things can be.

      Well, we are slowing down with our exploring now. No more museums for us anytime soon. Thankfully there is so much to see in the natural world. We are loving the NWR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.