Immersed in Beauty!

Experience the legacy of Arizona’s amazingly diverse beauty

Arizona has long been celebrated for her diverse beauty, and thankful snowbirds and other visitors to Arizona’s wild places have been known to fall in love at first sight.

It only takes one drive through Oak Creek Canyon to be instilled with a sense of wonder as you gaze in awe of the red rock formations and colorful deciduous growth. Take it a step further and explore the ecosystem by immersing yourself in the beauty of Slide Rock and Red Rock state parks.

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Red Rock State Park is a 286 acre nature preserve and environmental education center with stunning scenery. Trails throughout the park wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the rich banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The creek meanders through the park, creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife. The park offers a visitors center, classroom, theater, park store, ramada, and hiking trails. Vivid memories will be stored and then hold potential to be recalled on a moment’s notice to inspire another trip to Arizona’s Red Rock country.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Sonoran Desert holds a special place in the hearts of many as well, and is waiting to share beauty and revelations with those who have yet to experience the allure of this unique ecosystem. Lost Dutchman, Picacho, and Catalina state parks embody the essence of Arizona’s Sonoran deserts and will leave visitors thankful of their experience in this gorgeous slice of earth.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, on the Apache Trail, State Route 88, north of Apache Junction and about 40 miles east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Depending on the year’s rainfall, you might be treated to a carpet of desert wildflowers in the spring. Enjoy a week of camping and experience native wildlife including mule deer, coyote, javelin, and jackrabbit. A four mile mountain bike loop trail has opened at the park—this is a great way to enjoy the park’s beauty!

Jackrabbit along a trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and, often in the spring, overlook a sea of wildflowers.

The park and surrounding area are known for its unique geological significance, outstanding and varied desert growth, and historical importance. The unique shape has been used as a landmark by travelers since prehistoric times.

Wildflowers at Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Picacho Peak is not a volcanic cone, but is part of a volcanic flow that has been partially eroded away. It has long been known for its spring display of wildflowers. If rains come at the right times in the winter, the spring will bring an explosion of gold to the bajadas of the mountain that appear as a tapestry of color. The wildflowers are predominantly Mexican Gold Poppies.

Camping at Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The park offers a visitor center with exhibits and a park store, a playground, historical markers, a campground, and picnic areas. Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape and offer hikers both scenic and challenging hikes. Hike prepared and know your limits. Bring plenty of food and water and wear proper footwear. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and the amazing views.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invite camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails which wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. Bring along your curiosity and your sense of adventure as you take in the beautiful mountain backdrop, desert wildflowers, cacti, and wildlife.

Wildlife at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arizona will surprise you at every turn and Arizona State Parks are there to experience the legacy of this amazingly diverse beauty.

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever.

Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.

Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”.

There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

3 Arizona Destinations to Explore During Spring Training

In Phoenix for Spring Training! Spend some downtime exploring the Arizona outfield with these incredible day trips.

If you’ve come to Phoenix for spring training, or simply to escape the winter, you may not have thought about exploring the rest of Arizona.

If you return home after seeing seven games in seven days, but nothing of Arizona you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of the season!

But even the most diehard of spectators will find pockets of downtime. So it’d be a big swing and miss if you didn’t sneak off and explore the surrounding area: Seriously, the unreal landscapes, cultural riches, and award-winning eats add up to a stellar bonus vacation.

Here are some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.

Jerome

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Back in the day, men went where the precious ore was, no matter how precarious the landscape. Today, Jerome still clings for dear life to Cleopatra Hill, having successfully transitioned from mining town to tourist-friendly destination with restaurants, galleries and, best of all, a great view at every hairpin turn.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Must see: Imagine a dark and stormy night where a bolt of lightning illuminates a large building looming over a small town! That’s the Jerome Grand Hotel, a former hospital now home to guests (and a few spirits, if legends are to be believed).

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist activity actually worth doing: Jerome is supposedly among Arizona’s most haunted towns (its largest public venue is called Spook Hall). Take a tour and learn all about those who are living the afterlife.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: One of the best views also comes with a burger and a beer. Head to Haunted Hamburger and take a seat on the back porch.

How much time to allot: It’s a four-hour round trip, so six hours should do (seven if you eat, eight if you take a ghost tour).

Prescott

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If Arizona has a classic small town, this is it. From historic bars and hotels to a downtown centered round a formidable courthouse, Prescott is a casting agent’s dream with it comes to finding a charming village.

Whiskey Row, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Must see: Stroll along Whiskey Row (Montezuma Street), which earned its moniker at the turn of the 20th century. There may be fewer bars, but the historic charm remains, particularly at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon. In July 1900, as flames approached in a massive fire that would destroy much of Prescott, patrons dragged the bar to safety, and then returned for the liquor.

Sharlott Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist activity actually worth doing: As you enter the Palace Saloon and smile at workers in 1880s costumes, belly up to the historic bar and order a shot of whiskey, as countless cowboys have done.

Watson Lake and Granite Dells, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Duck into Matt’s Saloon and see if you can find the photo of Bruce Springsteen. The bartenders have an interesting tale of how The Boss stopped by September 29, 1989, and left a huge tip for a server in need.

How much time to allot: Six hours. Half of that time will be spent driving there and back.

Cottonwood

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Long ago this once-sleepy town was regarded as the gateway to, well, just about anywhere else. But thanks to its thriving wine scene and quaint Old Town packed with tasting rooms, Cottonwood has become the darling of the wine set.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Must see (and drink): The best wine tour in the area is right along Main Street. Five winery tasting rooms are within a block of one another. Each offers unique, locally made wines. You may be surprised how well “Arizona” and “fine wines” go together.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist activity actually worth doing: Climb aboard a steed (well, a very gentle horse) for a ride along the Verde River in Dead Horse Ranch State Park. It is best if you experience this authentic old-west trek before you hit the tasting rooms.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: If you have a designated driver (or you can pace yourself) take a ride to sample the offerings of nearby winemakers. Page Springs Cellars and Alcantara Vineyards have indoor and outdoor seating with views of the vines. The Southwest Wine Center, in a sleek, modern space on the Yavapai College campus, pours wines made entirely by students, right down to the labels.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: That depends. Are you drinking and driving? Stay overnight. If you’re bringing along a designated driver, plan on seven or eight hours. With a 3½-hour round-trip drive, you’ll have plenty of time to sample all your favorite vintages.

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

Stay Warm This Winter in these Unique Towns in the American Southwest

Escape winter and stay warm this winter in the American Southwest

One of the perks about having a home-on-wheels is the freedom to head south for year-round sunshine.

The American Southwest draws in thousands of snowbirds every year for good reason: the daytime temperatures stay pleasantly warm all winter and there is tons to see and do.

Stay warm this winter in these unique towns across the southwestern U.S.

Ajo, Arizona

Ajo Historic Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo is less than an hour from the Mexican border in Southern Arizona. It’s also the closest town to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where you can see the unique organ pipe cactus with their many long, prickly arms.

Be sure to drive the 10.4-mile Ajo Scenic Loop through an historic section of Ajo, then through a wonderland of saguaro, organ pipe, and other diverse cacti and Sonoran Desert vegetation.

Driving the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo’s reason to be is the massive open-pit New Cornelia copper mine. This inactive mine just outside of the town measures about one and a half miles across at its widest point and 1,100 feet deep at the center. There is a lookout where you can stop and get views of the mine, as well as a museum where you can learn more about the history.

New Cornelia Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There are numerous RV parks and campgrounds in the Ajo area including the popular Ajo Heights RV Park. You can also dry camp at Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Numerous sites are suitable for big rigs.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Elephant Butte State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Truth or Consequences was originally named Hot Springs but was later renamed after the title of a popular game show. Despite the name change, the town is still a relaxing hot springs destination with thermal water that flows out of a rift along the Rio Grande River.

Riverbend Hot Springs is the only springs actually located along the river within the town’s hot springs district. They have lodging available or you can stay in one of the area’s many RV parks or nearby Elephant Butte State Park.

Yuma, Arizona

Historic Old Town Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Yuma in southwestern Arizona holds the record for the sunniest city on Earth. The town averages about 308 sunny days every year, compared the US average of only 205.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One of the most interesting things to do in town is tour the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. The first seven inmates in this former prison were locked into jail cells that they built for themselves.

You can now walk through the old cells, the solitary chamber, the guard tower, and around the grounds, as well as see photographs and exhibits on the prison’s history.

Yuma East Wetlands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Yuma has a large number of RV parks and resorts, including many specifically for those 55 and older. Most parks are conveniently located along Interstate 8.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee is a quaint historic town in the Mule Mountains of southeastern Arizona. It was originally founded as a mining town, and still maintains many old buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town is filled with local shops, galleries, and several informative museums where you can learn more about the area’s mining history. There is also an historic mine that you can still tour underground in a hard hat, headlamp, and yellow slicker.

Queen Mine RV Park has full hookup RV sites within walking distance of the old mine tours. If you’re not bringing the RV, stay in one of Shady Dell’s uniquely decorated vintage trailers.

Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wherever you decide to escape winter, you’ll share one thing in common with all your neighbors. Every one of them has learned that suffering through cold seasons is optional. The endless summer is far more appealing—and doable in these popular winter RV destinations.

Worth Pondering…

We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds. Every year when I hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead at our home in Alberta, something in my genes starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the motorhome with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.

Ah, Arizona! Check Out These Other Diamonds during Spring Training

If you’re in Arizona for spring training, you’re missing out on other cool sights. Check out these other diamonds across the state.

Cactus League Spring Training, a seasonal rite in Greater Phoenix, roars to life every March with the iconic sounds of cracking bats, snapping mitts, and happy fans.

For baseball lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets, and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game.

Baseball may have lured you here, and odds are good that your days and nights are planned around the sport. Good for you. But you’re missing out on diamonds of another kind. We’re here to help with some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Odds are high you’ve never been this close to America’s greatest natural wonder. You’ll have 81 chances this year to see the Cubs play in Chicago, or Brewers in Milwaukee, or … you get it. But this could be your best shot to see a marvel a billion years in the making.

Must see: Stroll along and stare at the canyon for 30 minutes or so before visiting the historic Kolb Studio. This 1905 Victorian house seems to defy gravity from its perch on the South Rim. The story of photographer brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, who explored the canyon with cameras in tow, is a stunning as the views.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Head down the Bright Angel Trail for the customary below-the-rim experience. Just keep in mind it will take you twice as long to hike up as it did to walk down. 

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Buy a Grand Canyon pass online ($20), then park in Tusayan outside the front gate and take the free shuttle to the visitor center. Grand Canyon is busy during spring break, and the shuttle bypasses the long line of cars waiting to get in and searching for a parking spot.

How much time to allot: Eleven or 12 hours. The round-trip drive will take about eight hours, giving you three or four hours to enjoy the views.

Sedona

Hiking Cathedral Rock at Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With buttes, towers, and spires sculpted of rock in countless shades of red, Sedona occupies the perfect setting for a mythical city. And in a way Sedona is just that, if you believe healing energy whirls from spiritual vortexes. (Be sure to pick up a $5 daily Red Rock Pass; many sites require it for visits).

Must see: The Chapel of the Holy Cross protrudes from the red cliffs less than 4 miles south of Sedona’s “Y” intersection. The main stained glass window is held together by a giant cross and overlooks the Verde Valley.

Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Take a jeep tour. Excursions rumble you across suspension-challenging terrain to breathtaking views. Costs roughly range from $75-$150 for 90-minute to 2-hour tours.

Insider tip: If skies are clear and you have the time, stay for sunset when rocks glow as if illuminated from within. Airport Mesa is the most convenient (and popular) overlook. For a quieter, more intimate experience, head to Red Rock Crossing and watch the dying light set Cathedral Rock on fire.

Red Rock Country near Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: At least eight hours (10 if you add a jeep tour). The round trip from Phoenix is four hours, giving you four (or six) hours to explore. If you’re going on a Saturday, you might want to build in another hour for traffic.

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

RV Industry Innovations Focus of the All-New RVX

Looking to the future, the industry’s national event set for Salt Lake City debut

RV Industry Association officials are set to kick off their new trade show, RVX: The RV Experience, next week, promising a forward-looking glimpse into the best and most innovative creations the RV industry has to offer.

Billed as a first-of-its-kind, dealer-focused market development show to promote the RV industry, the new RVX show, scheduled for March 12-14 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, replaces the long-running and now-defunct RVIA National RV Trade Show that had taken place annually in Louisville since the early 1960s.

Last held in November 2017 at the Kentucky Exposition Center, RVIA officials in January 2018 announced they would be axing the show, noting they felt a completely new approach was needed for the industry’s national event.

According to the 2018 news release, the industry’s annual fall open house, held in Elkhart County, “has firmly established itself as the premier buying event, while at the same time the National RV Trade Show has not successfully redefined its purpose. As a result, it is clear the industry no longer needs multiple buying-focused shows, and the time to redefine RVIA’s event has come.”

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

That is where the new RVX show comes in.

“We’ve got a lot of things coming together that are just going to be fun and exciting for the industry,” RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom said of the new show. “The focus of the show has changed significantly from Louisville. It’s obviously a different location and a different place on the calendar. And that’s important because what we’ve done now is position the RV show at basically the beginning of the spring and summer outdoors season.”

Also changed is the show’s move away from highlighting the sale of existing units, which was the primary focus of the former Louisville show, to a focus on what new and exciting innovations manufacturers have in store for the industry.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Gila Bend KOA, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

“So the focus is going to be on what’s new, what’s interesting, and the coming innovations within the RV industry,” Broom said. “There are going to be 280 units on display there, and the focus, is definitely going to be on things that are new, various concept vehicles, and things that consumers will be buying in the summer and next year.”

In addition, the RVIA is hoping to use the new RVX show as a platform to kick off a major camping season marketing/communications campaign designed to position the RV industry as a key player in the outdoor adventure market.

The RVIA plans for RVX is to rotate the show between Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and Indianapolis, rather than keeping it at the same location year after year, as had been done with the Louisville show.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at La Quintas Oasis RV Resort, Yuma Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Helping to open the show this year will be a completely new event for the RVIA called “The Reveal,” which Broom described as a fast-paced, high-energy event designed around unveiling the industry’s best new RVs chosen from nine separate categories by a consumer-focused panel. Those categories include: Family-Friendly RVs; Outdoor Adventurer; Van Life; City Escape; Destination Camping; Team Tailgate; Sustainability; Luxury Living; and On the Horizon.

It’s going to be hosted by Rutledge Wood of the Speed Channel and NBC. He does NASCAR racing and he’s an RVer himself. There will be nine different RVs that the judges selected as the ones they wanted to show the audience.

Newmar recently announced that it will unveil its first Super C model at RVX. The manufacturer reported that the unit has been in research and development for the past two years. The new 2020 Super Star will be live-streamed from the Newmar display.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at La Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Super C RV will feature both a full air-ride cab and a full-wall slide-out.

Also poised to be a show highlight, the RV Technical Institute will present the Top Tech Challenge which will pit some of the best service technicians in the country against each other in a live competition to diagnose RV service issues the fastest. The overall goal of the event is to highlight the industry-wide need for bringing in more qualified technicians.

The RV Industry Association is the national trade association representing RV manufacturers and their component parts suppliers who together build more than 98 percent of all RVs produced in the U.S., and approximately 60 percent of RVs produced worldwide.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

We chose an RV and RV lifestyle that’s right for us.

Catch Cactus League Spring Training

10 stadiums. 15 MLB teams. 75-degree temperatures.

Follow your favorite baseball teams to Arizona for Cactus League Spring Training and catch all the big league action you can handle. While you’re here, spend some time playing the Arizona outfield with all the incredible dining, shopping, outdoor activities, and incredible sights within easy driving distance of the Phoenix Metro area.

Tempe

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tempe’s casual cool attracts those who enjoy the exciting feel of a college town. Stroll historic Mill Avenue in downtown to find great nightlife, shops, and restaurants. Explore aquariums and museums, paddleboard or kayak on Tempe Town Lake. “A” Mountain is just a few minutes away from the lake.

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Or enjoy the sunshine with a hike around Papago Park, just north of “A” Mountain and Tempe Town Lake. A desert preserve Papago is home to hiking and biking trails and attractions such as Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, Pueblo Grande Museum, and Arizona Heritage Center.

Scottsdale / Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the see and be seen scene, Scottsdale is the place to be. You’ll find luxurious resorts, chic nightlife, eclectic shopping, and award-winning dining, all with a splash of Southwestern charm. Scottsdale also has wonderful hikes and a booming art scene, so there’s no lack of entertainment even if you’re not a baseball buff.

Mesa

Usery Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mesa is quickly becoming a foodie destination with its innovative, local cuisine. And when you’re not watching a game or munching goodies, swing away at one of the area’s many golf courses or explore miles of desert mountain trails in nearby Usery Mountain Regional Park, one of 13 Maricopa County Regional Parks. The spectacular desert mountain scenery here is breathtaking.

Glendale / Goodyear

Sports fans may recognize Glendale as home to Arizona’s NFL and NHL teams. This sports mecca entertainment district is like a mini urban amusement park, with restaurants, wine bars, and outlet shops.

Apache Junction

Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Apache Junction is a suburban desert community nestled in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains, It is the easternmost community in the Phoenix Metro area.  Each winter the city welcomes an estimated 35,000 snowbirds.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, a few miles east of Apache Junction. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Starting in Apache Junction, the Apache Trail offers magnificent views of the Superstition Mountains with forests of saguaro and several blue lakes.Visit the old-west style settlement of Tortilla Flat.

Phoenix

Phoenix is a hotspot of urban action and family fun. Head downtown to discover hip restaurants and eateries, concerts with the biggest artists and up-and-coming bands, family-friendly museums, and so much more. Or tackle an urban hike-with sweeping city views-on Camelback Mountain or South Mountain.

Peoria

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peoria is only about a half-hour northwest of Phoenix yet it’s flown under the radar until recently. Relaxed and family friendly, the Northwest Valley offers plenty of shopping, growing arts scene, and natural beauty. The cool blue Lake Pleasant is located in a Maricopa County regional park. The recreation area has campsites, hiking trails, boat ramps, and a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the area’s plants and wildlife.

Surprise / Litchfield Park

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you’re up for a little adventure, trek through trails in the nearby White Tank Mountains. Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park has Arizona’s largest collection of exotic and endangered animals, with more than 600 separate species, rides, a petting zoo, and daily shows.

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

Yuma: A River Runs Through It

Agriculture is Yuma County’s number one industry

Pleasant temperatures, plenty of sunshine, outdoor recreation, tasty food, local history, and natural and man-made wonders make Yuma a popular destination for winter visitors.

Home to almost 100,000 residents, the population nearly doubles with the arrival of sun-seeking snowbirds during the peak travel months of January, February, and March.

The Colorado River supplies the needed water to sustain the more than 175 crops grown in the Yuma area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Because most people think of Arizona as a big, dusty desert, many are surprised to learn that agriculture is Yuma County’s number one industry—and that Yuma grows more than 90 percent of the country’s leafy vegetables from November through March.

In fact, the agriculture industry in Yuma County represents an annual gross economic return of $3.2 billion, or more than one-third of Arizona’s annual total of $9.2 billion.

Yuma is the winter lettuce capital of America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With mild winters, little danger of hard frost and more than 350 days of sunshine a year, Yuma County enjoys the longest growing season in the country. And while the winter is notable for the emerald and ruby patchwork formed by vast vegetable fields, something is either growing or happening in Yuma County fields even during the hottest months of the year.

One reason is the fields—sediments deposited by the Colorado River over millions of years—have some of the most fertile soil in the country.

Yuma County ranks number one in Arizona for lemon, tangelo, and tangerine production in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But with less than three inches of rainfall annually, water was the missing component, though the mighty Colorado flowed nearby. The Bureau of Reclamation’s first big water project in the West gave nature a hand, with construction of the first dam on the Colorado and completion of the Yuma Siphon—delivering water through a huge tunnel built under the riverbed—in 1912, the same year Arizona became a state.

Now, of the 230,000 acres of land utilized for agriculture in Yuma County, 100 per cent are irrigated with Colorado River water delivered by one of the county’s seven irrigation districts. Every field in the county is also laser-leveled and graded using GPS technology, making Yuma’s irrigation network one of the most efficient in the world.

Winter is the peak growing season for lettuce, cabbage, and numerous other crops in the Yuma area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All this has made Yuma County first in the state—and THIRD IN THE NATION—for vegetable production.

To put this in perspective, the Yuma area is home to nine salad plants that produce bagged lettuce and salad mixes. During peak production months, each of those plants processes more than two million pounds of lettuce per day.

There are also 23 cooling plants in the Yuma area, where powerful refrigeration units bring truck-sized loads of vegetables from field to shipping temperatures in less than half an hour. Crops harvested here in the morning can be in Phoenix by afternoon and on the East Coast in three to four days.

The Peanut Patch is nuts for you. Stop for a visit. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But lettuce is just part of the story: More than 175 different crops are grown in the Yuma area, including many grown to seed here because of the perfect growing conditions. For example, Yuma County ranks number one in Arizona for lemon, tangelo, and tangerine production, and for watermelons and cantaloupes; a local cattle company usually has more than 120,000 head of beef cows on its lot.

There also are more than 40,000 acres of wheat grown in this region. Desert durum comprises about 95 percent of Arizona’s wheat crop, with two-thirds of that exported— mainly to Italy for use in making premium pasta.

Yuma growers also grow kosher wheat used by Orthodox Jews to bake matzo (or matzoh), the unleavened bread wafers that are eaten at Passover. Because the rules for kosher production include that the wheat not receive moisture immediately prior to harvest, Yuma’s desert conditions and controlled irrigation make it a perfect spot to grow this specialty crop.

The Yuma area is one of the largest date producing areas outside of the Middle East © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dates are another local crop with Biblical roots. Date production in the Yuma area now totals about 10 million pounds a year, a $30 to $35 million dollar industry that employs more than 2,000 people annually.

Martha’s Gardens is our go-to places for fresh medjool dates and date shakes in the Yuma area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The date is one of the oldest tree crops with records showing that in Mesopotamia it was cultivated more than 5,000 years ago. This valuable food helped sustain desert peoples and nomadic wanderers of the Middle East and North Africa.

Dates are high in fiber, potassium, and anti-oxidants and contain no fat. They are an organic product, as no pesticides or chemicals are used on the trees or the dates. Many date confections are made locally including my favorite: Dates shakes, or milkshakes made with ice cream and dates. The indescribable joy of a good date shake!

Oh, the undescribable joy of a date shake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

A Small Town with a Big Back Yard

This is the place where the “Summer Spends the Winter”

“A Small Town With A Big Back Yard”, the tiny Arizona burg of Ajo (ahh-ho) is situated deep in the Sonoran Desert, 42 miles south of Gila Bend and 37 miles north of the Mexican border.

The Ajo Central Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A discovery worthy of Lewis and Clark, Ajo just might be the “best kept secret in Arizona.” This is the place where the “Summer spends the Winter”, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.

For many snowbirds, as it was for us, Ajo is merely a stopping-off point on the way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. For others, especially Spring Breakers, it’s a town to pass through on their way to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point).

The Old Train Depot northeast of the plaza dates from 1915 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town of Ajo reflects its one time wealth to this day. Glistening white churches and a well-designed plaza are so inviting.

Ajo today is a retirement community and snowbird haven along with an increasing number of artists. Ajo’s gorgeous mountain views and charming Old World architecture are enchanting and we soon fell in love with this friendly community in southwestern Arizona.

Across the street from the Central Plaza through a high arch of the train depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo got its name from a poor Spanish translation of an Indian word. To make body paint, the local O’odham Indians used copper. Their word for paint was aau’auho, which sounded to the Spanish like the familiar word ajo, meaning garlic in their language. Later, the wild lily plants in the area were named ajo for the flavorful bulb at its roots.

The birthplace of copper mining in Arizona, copper has provided the sinew for this desert town for about 300 years. Ajo was the oldest-known mine site in the state, and until the 1980s Phelps Dodge ran a sizable copper mining operation out of here.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church follows the ornate architectural style of the plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town of Ajo is worth a good walkabout. Most of the town, and in particular the central plaza, was created by John Campbell Greenway to be a good place for his New Cornelia miners to raise their families. Visitors can pick up a walking tour map/brochure at the Visitor Center located at the old train depot.

Greenway, formerly a Rough Rider with Theodore Roosevelt, was the highly successful general manager and an owner of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company that included the Lavender Pit Mine at Bisbee and the New Cornelia Mine at Ajo. He was the second husband of Isabella who, following John’s death in 1926, founded the Arizona Inn in Tucson and became Arizona’s first U.S. Congresswoman.

The Ajo Federated Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For Ajo’s architecture, Greenway chose Spanish Colonial Revival, a Mediterranean style with Moorish influences: high arches, white stucco surfaces, tile roofs, and considerable decoration.

Across the street from the plaza, the most prominent features are two white churches. The Federated Church, while visually interesting, has almost no ornamentation. The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church follows the more ornate architectural style of the central plaza. Both are eminently photogenic.

Organ pipe cactus and saguaro along the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A number of the buildings from the 1920s and before are still standing. Just beyond the churches,  the historic Curley School was constructed in 1919. The Train Depot directly northeast of the plaza dates from 1915. New Cornelia Hotel just east of Curley School was constructed in 1916.

A few miles further, past loads of cacti, long hills of white sediment and stretches of crushed stones in multi-colors line the highway, left by the New Cornelia Copper Mine.

Several boondockers along the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

An easy scenic drive, the Ajo Ten-Mile Loop skirts the backside of the open pit New Cornelia Mine. Along the way you can stop at the overlook and little museum about the mine. Also, in the St. Catherine’s Indian Mission, the Ajo Historical Society has a small museum out here. To no surprise, it too is mostly about Ajo’s glory days sporting one of the world’s largest copper mines.

The New Cornelia Copper Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A large wildlife refuge, Cabeza Prieta spans Sonoran Desert wilderness. Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is home to 275 species of animals, including endangered big horn sheep and Sonoran pronghorn. Capable of 60 mph, pronghorns are the fastest land animals in North America.

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located 35 miles south of Ajo on Highway 85, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves a diverse and relatively undisturbed sample of the Sonoran Desert. Mountains surround the park on all sides, some near, some distant, with colors changing from one hour to the next. Ninety-five percent of the monument is designated as wilderness area, which makes this one of the best places to view the Sonoran Desert.

Worth Pondering…

The vast emptiness and overpowering silence of the desert and surrounding mountains sharpens your senses, enhancing self-contemplation, and stimulating creativity.

—Anon

February 2019 RV Manufacturer Recalls

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

La Quintas Oasis RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

The number of RV recalls has increased significantly in recent years: 169 recalls were issued during 2016, 203 recalls during 2017, and 230 for 2018.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality, violating labeling requirements listed in federal motor vehicle safety standards.

NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

NHTSA announced 4 recall notices during February 2019. These recalls involved 3 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (2 recalls), Heartland Recreational Vehicles (1 recall), Triple E (1 recall).

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Coachmen Apex recreational trailers. The inner hub bearings may not have been sufficiently greased, which can cause the bearings to overheat and fail.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair the hubs and bearings, as necessary, free of charge. The recall began February 4, 2019. Customer service number unknown at this time. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-0923.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Salem and Wildwood recreational trailers. The power cord hatch is located above the water heater exhaust, possibly resulting in the cord or the hatch melting.

Forest River has notified owners, and dealers will secure the power cord away from the water heater exhaust, free of charge. The recall began February 4, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 574-534-6127. Forest River’s number for this recall is 44-0929.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Heartland Recreational Vehicles

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain Milestone recreational trailers, model 377MB. The liquid propane (LP) gas hose for the water heater may have been improperly secured with a zip tie. If the zip tie fails, the hose may contact the tire.

Heartland will notify owners, and dealers will secure the hose with a P-clamp and replace the LP hose if damage is found, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 11, 2019. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032. Heartland’s number for this recall is 99.01.44.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2019 Serenity recreational vehicles, model S24CB. The coach battery compartment door support metal cable may contact the positive battery terminal.

Triple E will notify owners, and dealers will replace the battery compartment door support metal cable with one that is covered with tubing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in February 2019. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-877-992-9906. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#9208-1

Columbia River RV Resort, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Note: Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the first in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

Wildflower Season Has Arrived in Arizona! Where to See the Best Blooms?

Weather brings spring wildflowers to add desert color

Spring-like weather has arrived in the desert a little later than normal this year but it comes bearing gifts. After a rainy and snowy winter, warmer temperatures are triggering a profusion of wildflowers.

The flowers of the Sonoran Desert are a splash of color and passion. While almost entirely absent last year, they are out in force this season. This is a time to revel in satiny sun and balmy breezes and go looking for them. It’s a show you don’t want to miss. Here are some places to admire those soft, ground-level fireworks.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

First, let’s establish a few rules so everyone can enjoy this season’s bounty.

1. Don’t pick wildflowers. They won’t last long enough to see a vase. They’ll die very soon after being plucked and then all their hard work of sprouting, growing, and blooming was for naught. Leave them for others to enjoy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

2. Stay on trails and watch where you step. There could be small seedlings all around. And for goodness’ sake, do not wade out into a field and trample the flowers, thus ruining them for everyone, just so you can snag a selfie. Take all photos from the pathways.

3. Don’t dawdle. Peak colors at any one location may last from a few days to two weeks. If you hear about a wildflower bonanza, track it down. The beauty may be ephemeral but your memories will last for years.

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Usery Mountain Regional Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The wildflower population appeared spotty at Usery Mountain Regional Park until moisture-laden storms in February changed the equation. Suddenly hillsides were streaked with color. Poppies, primrose, lupines, rock daisies, fairy dusters, and the flame-orange tips of ocotillo added drama to mountains that already exhibit plenty on their own.

The Userys gain enough elevation to afford stunning views back toward Phoenix and farther east to the rolling waves of mountains like the Goldfields and Superstitions. Hike the slopes to Wind Cave and Pass Mountain to admire the best panoramas while wading through bands of flowers.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, March 2010 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There’s always a bit of magic where desert and water meet. Add flowers to the mix and that’s a great way to spend a day. At Lake Pleasant, the heaviest concentration of poppies can be found on Pipeline Canyon Trail especially from the southern trailhead to the floating bridge a half-mile away.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, March 2010 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The bridge is guarded by some extremely robust globemallows the size of landscape shrubs. A nice assortment of blooms also lines the Beardsley, Wild Burro, and Cottonwood trails.

Bartlett Lake

Near Bartlett Lake, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The road to Bartlett Lake quickly leaves suburbs behind and winds past rolling hills to the sparkling reservoir cradled by mountains. Be sure to keep an eye peeled for white poppies—this is a good spot for them.

Bartlett Lake, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Some of the best flower sightings are along the road to Rattlesnake Cove. The Palo Verde Trail parallels the shoreline, pinning hikers between flowers and the lake, a wonderful place to be on a warm March day.

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wildflowers are on a blooming binge at Picacho Peak State Park. Carpets of dazzling golden Mexican poppies play a starring role in the colorful show—but other wildflowers add their own hues to the landscape. Among them: blue lupines, orange globemallow, white desert chicory, and bright yellow brittlebush.

Picacho Peak State Park, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nearly any spot along the park’s main road will include wildflower scenery. One of the best side routes for colorful views from a vehicle—and even more grand vistas from trails—is the Barrett Loop.

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

“We had poppies blooming in January and that’s unheard of in my time here,” park manager Steve Haas says. Two large washes keep the park cooler than the lower desert and generally prompt a later seasonal bloom. Traditionally, colors peak from late March into early April but things are happening a little earlier this year.

The Sutherland Trail offers the best assortment of flowers with cream cups, poppies, lupines, penstemon, and desert chicory. Best color can be found near the junction with Canyon Loop and continuing for about 2 miles on the Sutherland across the desert.

Catalina State Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Guided hikes and bird walks are offered several days each week.

Worth Pondering…

Wildflowers are the stuff of my heart!

—Lady Bird Johnson