The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn – PART 6: Vacillating in Vegas

Our last episode ended shortly after we checked into the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. Three weeks have gone by, and here we remain, in a state of suspended animation, vacillating between bursts of activity and days of doing virtually nothing. Here’s an update.

The Resort: The Oasis is one of those giant RV parks, with 901 sites for RVers. Unlike the Rincon Country West Resort back in Tucson, this place does not have any permanent, “park model” mobile homes, so one can’t rent or purchase a place to stay. No RV, no staying here. There are plenty of amenities, including swimming pools and a hot tub, exercise room, 18-hole putting course (which is cute but not really playable due to the long grass), restaurant, and convenience store, but hardly anyone is actually using them due to Covid restrictions and social distancing. There is a nice laundry, restroom, and shower facility about a hundred yards from our site. Though the park is full of people – I’m guessing 80 or 85% of the sites are occupied – we almost never come in proximity to anyone else as we walk or bike around. We have had take out from the restaurant (and even dined in twice with only a couple of other people present) and purchased a few items at the store without feeling anxious, as the few people who go into the resort building have to wear masks and are doing a good job of distancing. Our site is located adjacent to a walled-off RV storage area and there are some nice trees occupied by some birds that have an interesting song and occasionally tap dance on the roof of our RV (great-tailed grackles, as identified by my BirdNET app).

The Venerable RV at our site

In summary, the resort is quite nice, BUT it’s also rather boring. Unlike the Rincon Resort in Tucson, there is no access to hiking/biking trails, and the surroundings have little to offer in terms of scenic value. On the other hand, there are some very interesting things to do if one is willing to drive a bit. Fortunately, we have a car. As I mentioned in the last installment, we rented a car when we got to Las Vegas, and we still do have a car parked at our site. Below, I describe some of the places we have travelled to.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: This is a fabulous area about 18 miles northwest of the RV resort, operated by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Access is limited by a timed entry reservation system – on the BLM website one selects a desired entry time and pays an entry fee. (Lucky for us, my Lifetime Senior Pass gets us in for free!) Once inside the entry gate, there is a 13-mile scenic loop drive that winds among the many overlooks and trailheads. Pat and I drove around the loop on two separate visits, and we also hiked on the Visitor Center, Calico, Petroglyph Wall, and Lost Creek trails (see map below).

Map of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
View from Calico 1 Parking Area
Petroglyph Wall
View from Lost Creek Trail
Prehistoric creature at Red Rock Canyon?

Valley of Fire State Park: This is another beautiful place to visit, located about 60 miles northeast of the RV resort. The name is derived from the red sandstone formations formed 150 million years ago. Complex fault movements, uplifting, and subsequent erosion created a myriad of fascinating and beautiful landscape features. We have visited just once so far, on a Saturday when the park was very busy. We only took a few short walks, feeling uncomfortable hiking among the multitudes, but we intend to return on a less busy weekday for a longer visit.

Map of Valley of Fire State Park
Arch Rock at Velley of Fire State Park
Sandstone Formations at Valley of Fire

There are a number of access roads and hiking trails as shown on the map above. As we drove along the White Domes road just past the visitor center, we were greeted by one of the park’s natives – a bighorn sheep dashed across the road ahead of the car in front of us and leaped up onto a rock shelf.

Bighorn sheep scaling the roadside cliff
I wish I had his balance …

Golf Courses (Naturally): Of course, I have had to go golfing once or twice (or more). There are many, many courses nearby, but to date I have only visited three of them. The first place was called Painted Desert Golf Club. It has a nice variety of hole layouts in a desert landscape, surrounded by mountains, and the fairways and greens are quite nice, enticing me to return three more times. However, the sand traps have so far bedeviled me – just a thin layer of sand on top of hard dirt. During my last round, I think I finally figured out how to play a shot from a trap. My four scores have varied by nine strokes – two at the high end of “not-too-bad,” one “pretty good,” and one “pretty darned good.” I should mention that my scores now are in the same range as my better days some 25 years ago, before rotator cuff surgery and before waking up one day as an old man, but there are two major differences now. First, I play from the senior tees, and second, I’m not quite such a rules Nazi any more, allowing for some conceded putts and other things that would have tortured my soul back then. But, hey, life goes on!

Fourth Hole at Painted Desert Golf Club
Eighteenth hole at Painted Desert Golf Club

I’ve also played twice at Los Prados Country Club, located within the gated housing community of Los Prados. (Despite the potential for snobbery, they welcomed me in my blue jeans, so all was copacetic. In fact, I haven’t had to done the fancy golf pants I bought two years ago in Palm Springs anywhere on this winter’s sojourn. Life is good!) This course is only a par 70 and most of the holes are pretty short, so I played from the regular men’s tees. My first round was a “pretty darned good” one, but the second was a mere “almost awful,” a full eleven shots worse, primarily due to a persistent duck hook off the tees. This course is also pretty and in quite nice condition, so I’ll probably go back again to try to replicate that first effort. The final course I’ve tried is called Wildhorse Golf Club. It has lots of metal sculptures of horses scattered about, and the tee markers are shaped like horseshoes. Very cute. But the condition was not as good as the other two, including piles of goose excrement on many of the greens. I still had that severe duck hook, and no tolerable quantity of overlooked rules could save me from an “awful.” I don’t expect to be back at Wildhorse again. Unless I decide to prove that I can do better …

Other Activities: We’ve also done a fair amount of gadding about by car for shopping trips and such. Pat got new glasses to replace the broken ones from White Tank Regional Park, and we’ve picked up a few things at Target and Walmart. Also, we did add something to our traveling retinue that you can get a glimpse of in the photo below – I’ll have more on that in future episodes.

Regular readers: Do you see something new?

That covers our activities through today. When we arrived here in Vegas, we had planned to leave on January 27 to head for San Diego, where we had booked a two week stay. However, California subsequently entered Covid hell, so we cancelled that reservation. Currently, our departure date is somewhat open – between January 28 and February 14. So here we are, vacillating in Vegas about where to go next. Unfortunately, the weather in much of the southwest has gotten rather cool and the coming weeks’ forecasts are for rain and cold, so no place seems particularly enticing right now. Who knows when or where we will be when I write the next installment? Perhaps only The Shadow knows. The good news is that we are still feeling safe and well.

Stay tuned as the adventure continues …

The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn – PART 5: On the Road Again

Our last episode found us preparing to depart from the Rincon Country West RV Resort in Tucson, AZ, after a month-long stay. Here’s an update on our activities over the past several weeks.

Dec 7-9 (Monday – Wednesday): Our first stop after leaving the RV park was the local (Tucson) Mercedes Sprinter service center. (Earlier, during our travel from New Mexico to Arizona, we were getting hot and cranky because the air conditioning in the Sprinter wasn’t working, and we vowed to get it fixed once we finished our long stay in Tucson. The problem had actually surfaced back in the summer in Minnesota, but by the time we left for the big Sojourn I had forgotten about it.) The problem was fixed in a couple of hours– it turned out that varmints back in Minnesota had eaten into the wiring on the switch that opened a valve in the air conditioner system. Happy as clams in the now cool cab of the Sprinter, we headed off to the Catalina State Park just northwest of Tucson.

The state park was beautiful, nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, home to thousands of Saguaro cacti and other desert plants and supposedly over 150 species of birds. We didn’t see that many, but some friendly roadrunners visited our campsite, and a northern cardinal and some Gila woodpeckers frequented in the trees nearby. We biked around on the roads and hiked several of the excellent trails. The campsites were nicely spaced for easy social distancing, the scenery was gorgeous, and our site was only a hundred yards from an excellent restroom and shower facility. We would gladly go back to this park again.

Our site at Catalina State Park
Friendly visitor at the Catalina site
View from the Canyon Loop hiking trail
Hiking and biking at Catalina State Park

Dec 10-13 (Thursday – Sunday): Our next stop was the White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Waddell, AZ, just northwest of Phoenix. This was another beautiful desert park, located not surprisingly amid the White Tank Mountains. Our experience here was very similar to the Catalina State Park – excellent biking and hiking opportunities, beautiful scenery, well-spaced campsites, nearby restroom and shower facility. Among the many desert plants were huge swaths of Teddy Bear cholla – I saw more of them at this park than in all the other places we visited back in 2018-2019 combined. And they are just so cute! Again, we’d be very happy to visit this park again.

Our site at White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Teddy Bear Cholla at White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Hiking and biking at White Tank
Sunset at White Tank

One unfortunate incident did occur at White Tank, however. Pat was hiking by herself on Saturday, while I was tooling around on her new bike. She reportedly was gawking at a flock of birds that flew up as she walked by, when suddenly a rock leaped out in front of her. She tripped and fell, breaking her glasses and causing some painful injuries to her chest, legs, and especially her right hand. Later, the bruises were quite noticeable, though I think her bruised ego may have been worse. Luckily, nothing was broken, but the hand injury has continued to be an irritant.

Dec 14-17 (Monday – Thursday): Our next stop was the Lake Havasu State Park in Lake Havasu City, AZ. Lake Havasu is a large reservoir, essentially a 26-mile long swelling of the Colorado River that was created by construction of the Parker Dam (completed in 1938). We visited Lake Havasu City during our Excellent Adventure back in 2018, though that time we stayed at the Campbell Cove RV Resort located about a quarter mile from the State Park. Once again, we found the state park to be excellent – in almost all aspects. Our campsite was only a hundred yards from the shores of Lake Havasu. A lovely hiking trail, aptly named the Sunset Trail, wound for the most part along the edge of the Lake, but also jogged inland and passed mere steps from our site. The trail also passed by a nice desert garden featuring all sorts of cacti, trees, and other desert plants. We were nicely isolated from the other campers, yet the roads and parking areas for boaters allowed for many miles of biking just in the park itself (and all the huge parking lots were completely empty, presumably because the boating season is at a lull during December). So, what was the one aspect that failed to impress? The restroom and shower building, though only a few hundred yards away, felt like something at an army boot camp. Yuck!

Pat wasn’t able to ride her new e-bike much due to the injured hand, which was very sad for her. However, that left the bike available for me! I made great use of it, tooling around the park itself as well as out and about throughout Lake Havasu City. One day, I went to the Post Office, then across the world-famous London Bridge (yes, the real London Bridge, moved brick by brick from London, England, back in the 1960s) to a peninsula in Lake Havasu, through the London Bridge shopping district, and back to the camper. The trip covered more than ten miles, and I hardly worked up a sweat with the super cool e-bike. With the pedal-assisted bike, it still felt like good exercise, though, not like the totally motorized bikes many people are now using.

Our site at Lake Havasu State Park
The Sunset Trail at Lake Havasu State Park
Sunset from the Sunset Trail
Desert Garden at Lake Havasu State Park

Our main complaint about our stay here (aside from the crappy restroom and shower facility) was with the people in Lake Havasu City, not in the State Park itself. When I rode through the shopping area, there were far fewer people than we saw back in 2018, but none of them wore masks. When I walked to a mini mart near the State Park looking for milk, there was a sign saying masks were optional. I almost didn’t go in, but there was no one else in the store except the masked cashier. When I went to another mini mart a day later, I made sure the sign said masks were required, but as I waited in line, both people ahead of me at the registers were maskless. I hung way back until they left, then quickly paid and got out of there. When Pat and I went to the grocery store on our way out of town, 10 or 15 people were strutting around without masks. (In all fairness I must add that most people were wearing them and cutting those idiots a wide swath.) By Friday, we couldn’t wait to get out of town. What is the matter with these anti-mask people? Not to stereotype, but I’ll bet Trump carried Lake Havasu City in a landslide, at least until Hugo Chavez changed all the votes with his Dominion algorithm. [OK, Dave, take a deep breath …] We won’t go back there until the pandemic is long over.

Dec 18 (Friday): From Lake Havasu City, we turned back south for our next, nearby, destination stopping along the way to visit the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Sanctuary. This very cool place is located on the Colorado River just upstream of the Parker Dam, where the Bill Williams River enters the Colorado. The Bill Williams River marks the transition between the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts. The Refuge contains many cottonwood and willow trees, “the largest remaining block of this type of riparian forest in the Colorado River system,” according to a plaque I saw. There are all sorts of birds, many different fish species, and beautiful views of Lake Havasu and the surrounding mountains. We spent an hour walking around before having lunch in the RV and heading off again. This hidden gem was absolutely worth a visit.

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Sanctuary
Bill Williams River National Wildlife Sanctuary

Dec 18-21 (Friday – Sunday): Our next stop was the Pirate’s Den RV Resort in Parker, AZ, our first repeat lodging site from the Excellent Adventure in 2018-2019. Since I reported on it back then, I won’t spend much time describing this goofy, pirate-themed RV park. There was one and only one reason we came here – the Emerald Canyon Golf Course across the road. I fell in love with the course on that earlier visit and couldn’t bear the thought of driving past without playing there again. (I got a little mixed up about its location relative to Lake Havasu City when making reservations. It would have made more sense to stop here beforehand rather than doubling back. Had we done that, however, we might have missed out on the Wildlife Sanctuary, so that made the mix-up worthwhile.) I lugged my golf clubs the half-mile over to the course on both Saturday and Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed my two rounds. I was nervous when checking in because I was the only person in the clubhouse wearing a mask, but I got in and out in a minute or two. (Again, what’s with these Colorado River Arizona people?) I lost five balls (two in nearly the exact same spot in a water hazard on the 12th hole each day), but I also made three birdies and had enough good shots to call it an overwhelming success. On Saturday evening, we had a nice dinner at the Black Pearl Restaurant at the RV park (socially distanced, outdoors, attended by a masked server). As we drove away on Monday, I was glowing from the golf memories and Pat was still wondering why on earth we had to go back to the stupid place.

Emerald Canyon Golf Course (Ninth Tee)
Emerald Canyon Golf Course (Sixteenth Tee)

Dec 21-27 (Monday – Sunday): Our next stop was at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, also a duplicate from our Excellent Adventure in 2018 and previously documented. We spent two nights at the Lake Mead RV Village, run by a private contractor, with electric, water, and sewer hookups, in a spot two down from the one we stayed in before. Then we moved to the Boulder Beach Campground next door, run by the National Park Service, with no hookups. This gave us a chance to run our generator for an hour or so each day, just to keep it in tune. (We hadn’t even turned it on for over a year, so Pat wondered if it would even run. I assured her it was no problem as I pushed the switch, with my fingers secretly crossed.) While there, we celebrated Christmas quietly, though we did have a zoom with the family back home, which was most enjoyable.

The Recreation Area has terrific bike trails, and the roads are also good for biking, so we made good use of the bikes. On Tuesday we both rode – mostly downhill – to the marina on Lake Mead (I was looking for pop, my main addiction). On the way back – mostly uphill – I had to get off and walk while panting like a 70-year-old man who’s just tried to ride up a hill that’s too steep for him, while wistfully watching Pat pedal away on her e-bike. (Oh, right, I am a 70-year-old man who had just tried to ride up a hill that’s too steep for him.) Unfortunately (or fortunately) her hand couldn’t take the strain for more biking afterward, so I was forced to use her bike every day after that. (Heh, heh.)

Our site at Lake Mead National Recreation Area Boulder Beach Campground
Lake Mead as viewed from our site

I will mention one slightly amusing incident that occurred on Tuesday. In the morning, while walking over to the restroom at the RV Village, I noticed a hot young babe outside her RV pumping iron. I tried not to ogle too hard, but I thought she looked pretty darned good. Back at the RV, I reported this news to Pat. Later, when Pat returned from her own expedition to the restroom, she mentioned that she had seen the woman as well, and noted that she appeared to be in her fifties. My retort was twofold: first I hadn’t been wearing my glasses, and second, that is young as far as I’m concerned.

Dec 28 — Jan 2 (Monday – Saturday): Our next stop and current location is the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. That’s right – Vegas, baby!!! Though we aren’t going to do any of the usual Vegas stuff. We’ll just stay quietly in the RV except when walking, riding bikes, and shopping for necessities. We are booked here for a month and have rented a car for the duration to facilitate shopping and a few touristy things, and golfing, of course. But speaking of biking …

When Pat got the e-bike back in Tucson, she was very happy with it, and I was covetous. She did feel that it was a tad too large, though, so she suggested that she get a smaller size and deed the original one to me. I heartily agreed. But we soon learned that the bike she bought (from REI) was no longer available. She identified some other models that were around the same, light weight, but no one in the Tucson area had any or knew when they might get any, due to the very hot bicycle market. So, I have been pouting and stealing hers ever since. Pat’s sore hand proved to be a plus for me, though I’ve tried not to engage in too much schadenfreude. But the good news is that once we got to Las Vegas, she found a nearby shop that had exactly one bike, of the model she wanted most, in stock. On Tuesday, we zipped over there and bought it (after which we also went to Warby Parker and ordered replacement glasses). The size of the new bike is much better for her, and the other one is now mine, all mine! And both of the e-bikes are light enough for our existing bike rack. All is good!

Our new E-bikes — light as feathers

On Thursday, I brought my old non-electric bike back to the shop and donated it. As long as I was out donating bikes, I figured I ought to play golf. I could give an enthusiastic report on the golfing, but this post has gone on long enough, so I’ll skip that until the next time.

That covers our activities through today. Here is a map showing our recent travels and one that shows the entire trip so far.

Recent travels
The Sojourn so far

I can happily report that we are still feeling safe and well. Stay tuned as the adventure continues …