The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn – PART 8: Ambling Back to Arizona

It’s been nearly four weeks since I posted the last episode of our Sojourn, shortly after leaving the Lake Mead RV Village and heading westward. My apologies for failing to provide a timelier update. To make up for it, this installment will be a bit longer than usual. Here we go with a summary of our experiences since February 15.

Maps: First, here are some maps of the journey so far, the first showing the entire Sojourn and the second zooming in on the more recent travels.

The Sojourn so far
Map showing travels since last blog post

Feb 15 – 27: As reported previously, we scrapped our plans to stay in California during late January and February due to the severe Covid outbreak and reinstatement of travel restrictions there. As the situation began to improve, the state began to ease restrictions, and we started thinking about California again. While we were still unwilling to go near any of the big cities, one idea that seemed plausible was to visit Death Valley National Park, as we had back in 2018. (I must admit that this plan was driven in large part by my desire to play another round of golf at the Furnace Creek Golf Course in the heart of Death Valley.) However, we were unable to find any reservable RV sites at the campground during the period of interest. Moving on to Plan B, we decided to book a two-week stay at the Nevada Treasure RV Resort near Pahrump, NV, from where we could easily take a day trip to Death Valley. So, we packed up the RV, charged up the Tesla, and headed west.

Pahrump is a town of 37,000 located smack dab in the middle of the desert, an hour away from Death Valley and close to absolutely nothing else. When I looked on Google for things to do, the highlights included two wineries (tastings and wine sales cancelled due to Covid), a bunch of casinos, Death Valley tours, firearms training, ATV sales, a couple of museums, and a couple of golf courses. Further digging revealed that there are also legal brothels, but I assure you I made no attempt to track those down (although I did have an amusing mental image of a bevy of lounging, beautiful women clad only in their protective facemasks). The RV Resort, located a few miles west of the town limits, features 204 RV sites in a nicely landscaped, 40,000 square-foot, walled enclosure. The place has a sort of Polynesian theme, with thatched roof huts for the premium sites, waterfalls, tiki torches, palm trees, and assorted statues. There is a large recreational facility and pool, closed due to Covid, a small restaurant and bowling alley that were open for business, and excellent laundry, restroom, and shower facilities. Masks were required in the public areas, but the restaurant customers and some laundry users didn’t seem to care about that detail. Many of the other RVers spent hours congregating and chatting in close proximity, but in true hermit fashion we kept our distance and avoided any contact with the maskless. While the Resort was nice enough, there was basically nothing to do there except walk around while avoiding the other people. There were no hiking or biking trails, and we didn’t even take the bikes off the bike rack. We did get take-out from the restaurant twice – I was the only person in there other than the server wearing a mask, and I kept my distance from the diners while waiting for the food. As a result of the overall atmosphere, we spent a lot more time cocooning inside the RV than being out and about.

Our Site at Nevada Treasure RV Resort in Pahrump, NV
Typical Landscaping at Nevada Treasure
View Looking North at Nevada Treasure

Of course, I had to try out one of the golf courses on our first Friday in Pahrump, called the Lakeview Executive Golf Course. I’m not exactly sure which lake was supposed to be in view, though there were several small ponds scattered throughout the course. It was indeed an executive layout, with five par fours and thirteen par threes for a total par of 59. It was rated as a very easy course, but I felt it was a good challenge, with plenty of trouble to be had on almost all of the holes. I played probably my best round in recent memory, hitting excellent drives on all of the long holes and quite a few good iron shots on the short ones. Putting was a bit of a challenge since the green surfaces resembled fur coats, but I did manage to bang in a few and even made a birdie on one hole. I returned to the RV and booked a round at the Furnace Creek course at Death Valley for the coming Monday, feeling psyched about the epic round to come.

Lakeview Executive Golf Course, Pahrump, NV

On Monday, February 22, we drove the Tesla to Death Valley, where Pat dropped me at the Golf Course and went off to explore the park. I started off poorly with a topped drive on the first hole, then recovered with a few good shots on the next two holes, then spiraled into the toilet for the remainder of the round. While it was enjoyable to play the course once again after my stinky effort there in 2018, I actually played even worse this time out, in stark contrast to my sterling effort at Lakeview three days previously. (Golf is such a stupid and frustrating game.) Pat had a better day than I did, driving around the National Park and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Site of the Furnace Creek Debacle
18th Hole at Furnace Creek Golf Course
View of Artists Drive, Death Valley National Park

After briefly giving up the game of golf following the disaster at Furnace Creek, I was back at the Lakeview course again on Wednesday, and once again on Saturday. Both rounds were good, with only two bad holes on Wednesday and one bad hole on Saturday. The last round would have been the best of all three at Lakeview, except that the greens had gotten so long and slow that I was unable to get the ball to the hole from any distance over about three feet. All in all, though, the Lakeview rounds were a good salve for the Furnace Creek wounds – I only lost one ball, made two birdies, and scored in the 60s all three times. In retrospect, I guess it must be a very easy course.

Feb 28 – March 3 (Sunday – Wednesday): We left the Nevada Treasure RV Resort on Sunday, February 28. I muttered “Harumph to Pahrump” as I drove off in the RV, heading south to the hamlet of Cal-Nev-Ari, where Nevada, California, and Arizona meet. I stopped for lunch in the parking lot of the Post Office before heading east to Golden Valley, AZ. Pat took the Tesla on a different route, back into Henderson, NV, to pick up some items at REI, then south into Arizona and back west to meet me at the Tradewinds RV Park in Golden Valley. The Tradewinds is a no-frills, all gravel park with 113 RV sites. The roads are demarcated by small trees and a few signs, and old ranch implements are scattered about as landmarks. There is one building with laundry and restroom facilities – the showers are very nice, but you have to go through the modest-sized laundry to get to them. With such limited facilities for the entire park, it was hard not to run into people in the laundry, and – you guessed it – no masks. As a result, we took to peering in the window to make sure no one was in there before entering the building. Once again, there wasn’t much to do at the park itself – the bikes stayed on the rack for another three days during our stay.

The nearest grocery stores were in Kingman, about 10 miles to the east. We went shopping there on Monday and once again encountered a number of people ignoring the posted requirement for mask wearing. In particular, one large maskless family was spread out throughout the store, bickering and scowling as they selected their items. We managed to stay away from them, though it required a bit of dodging and weaving, and I left the store feeling very angry about their lack of concern for the health and safety of everyone else in the store. As I thought about it later, I began to feel sorry for them – their lives seemed fueled by anger, with no room for the joy of living. Perhaps they simply have nothing to look forward to in life, and defying the mask requirement gives them some sort of perverse sense of control. I only wish they could find some other less destructive way to act out.

On the plus side, we saw a nice-looking golf course near the grocery store, so I promptly booked a round there for Tuesday. It was called Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course and proved to be a challenging and enjoyable layout. My round was quite decent, with one birdie and only one lost ball – almost as good as the Lakeview efforts and worlds better than the Furnace Creek debacle – so it felt as though I was back on track.

16th Hole at Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course, Kingman AZ

On Wednesday, we drove west, across the Colorado River again into Nevada, to visit an area called Pyramid Canyon. Within the canyon, just north of Laughlin, NV, the Davis Dam spans the river to form Lake Mohave. This dam was built in 1951 to re-regulate water released from the Hoover Dam and to facilitate delivery of water to Mexico. We certainly have seen a lot of Colorado River dams on this trip – it seems that the river supplies water to the entire southwestern US before trickling into Mexico, while providing a fair amount of hydroelectric power along the way. Gotta love those engineers! We hiked around the area for a couple of hours before heading back to the Tradewinds for the evening.

Davis Dam and Lake Mohave

March 4 – 6 (Thursday – Saturday): Our next stop was the Point of Rocks RV Campground in Prescott, AZ. This place was unique and very cool – built on extremely hilly terrain with 96 RV sites situated around some fascinating rock formations called the Majestic Granite Dells. Biking didn’t work here, either, so the bikes stayed put. However, there were excellent hiking trails to the nearby Watson Lake Park, so we could hike to our hearts’ contents without having to drive anywhere. The Watson Lake Park is gorgeous, its blue water contrasting beautifully with the Granite Dells. I will mention, though, that my heart’s content did not translate into my feet’s content, or my knees’ content – I felt like a very old man after an hour’s hike on the rough trails.

Point of Rocks RV Campground, Prescott, AZ
Watson Lake Park, Prescott, AZ
Watson Lake Park, Prescott, AZ
The Old Man and the Tree (with apologies to Papa Hemingway)

But that didn’t stop me from trying another round of golf. The StoneRidge Golf Course was only a stone’s throw away (actually about 10 miles), so I went out there for a round on Tuesday. This one was truly a mixed bag. For the most part, I hit the ball quite well, even making one birdie. However, I lost about eight balls. Most of those were actually pretty good shots, but in retrospect I didn’t hit them where I should have been aiming. The course was just too bleeping hard for me. Also, I couldn’t make any putts. I didn’t putt badly, but the breaks were subtle and unreadable. So, while I shot the worst score yet this trip, primarily from all those lost ball penalties, I didn’t feel all that bad about how I played. Regular readers will recall that I purchased two dozen Titleist golf balls back in November in Tucson. I counted my arsenal after the StoneRidge round, and the Titleists are essentially ALL GONE. I’m now left with only nine balls that I had before buying the ones in Tucson. Will they last until I get back to Minneapolis???

StoneRidge Golf Course (Where the heck are you supposed to hit the ball?)

March 7 – 9 (Sunday – Tuesday): Sunday morning we left Point of Rocks and headed for Cottonwood AZ, and our next destination, with the charming name of Dead Horse Ranch State Park. The state park is only about 40 miles from the Point of Rocks by the shortest route, which takes one on a winding road over Woodchute Mountain, with more switchbacks than a Finnish sauna. The elevation in Prescott is 5367 feet, and the elevation in Cottonwood is 3314 ft, but the road reaches an elevation of some 6500 feet near the summit. Pat elected to drive the Tesla on an easier route, south to I17, through a pass between mountains, then north to Cottonwood, which is 20 miles longer but only adds 4 minutes according to Google maps. After some debate about which route to follow, I decided to take the RV over the mountain, expecting the scenery to be more impressive. And was it ever! I must be getting pretty good at driving the RV by now, because I felt very much at ease navigating the multiple hairpin turns while trying not to gawk too much at the views. There was even a fair amount of snow on the mountainside at the high elevation. I sorely missed having my copilot along to snap a photo or two and vowed to come back with the Tesla to get some shots before leaving Cottonwood.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is another excellent specimen in the Arizona State Park system. Our site on the Red Tail Hawk loop was well spaced away from other campsites, with a scenic view of the distant mountains, and the restroom and shower building was only a short walk away. There were many excellent hiking trails accessible directly from the campground, and the roads were smooth and safe, prompting me to finally get the bikes off the rack again after more than three weeks. It felt great to be tooling around, exploring the park’s three lagoons, multiple picnic areas, and the other campground loops. We also hiked the Mesa Trail which provided some scenic views of Woodchute Mountain and the old mining town of Jerome, which I had driven through on the way from Prescott.

Map of Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ
View from our RV Site at Dead Horse Ranch
View from the Mesa Trail at Dead Horse Ranch
Lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch

On Tuesday we did take that trip up the mountain and back, and the drive in the Tesla was considerably more relaxing than my earlier trek in the RV. We would have liked to stop and explore Jerome, which has become an art colony and tourist hotspot with its winding main street and picturesque shops, but there were too many people milling about. To make up for not visiting Jerome, we stopped at a Sonic Drive-In for burgers in Cottonwood on our way back to the State Park, which was fun.

Overlook on Mountain Highway West of Jerome, AZ

March 10 – 14 (Wednesday – Today): We departed from Dead Horse Ranch on Wednesday morning and drove to the Leaf Verde RV Resort in Buckeye, AZ, just west of Phoenix, where we will be staying until next Wednesday morning. The drive was a piece of cake compared with the last RV jaunt over the mountain, following freeways and divided highways essentially all the way. Regular readers with especially good memories may recall that we stayed at this same RV Resort in late November and early December of 2018, on our Excellent Adventure. Since this post is nearing Epic proportions, I won’t describe it again.

On Thursday, we drove a short way to the Skyline Regional Park, which we also visited the last time, and went on a long hike. At least we didn’t take the same trail (Turnbuckle), though perhaps we should have. This time we took the Mountain Wash trail to the Lost Creek trail to the Quartz Mine trail (see map), which involved a tremendous elevation change, multiple switchbacks, and rough walking over the rocky path. The whole loop turned out to be 4.5 miles, and my feet and knees were so sore as we neared the finish that I had to take a shortcut to the road while Pat went back to the trailhead to get the Tesla. What a wimp!

Map of Trails at Skyline Regional Park, Buckeye, AZ
View from Quartz Mine Trail at Skyline Regional Park

After that, we drove to Ciao Grazie in Verrado, the excellent pizza restaurant we discovered back in 2018. We were able to sit outdoors, well away from any other diners, drooling over a Pizza al Salmone – a pizza with smoked salmon, caramelized mushrooms, and capers. It may sound a bit weird, but it was absolutely delicious!

Unfortunately, it started to rain Thursday evening and has been raining lightly on and off ever since. As a result, we haven’t gone on any exhausting hikes again – I’m just sitting around like a bum writing this blog post. (On second thought, maybe that’s not so unfortunate.)

UPDATE: The sun is shining brightly this morning (Sunday), so we’ll have to get back to outdoor activities.

Now, I just have a couple more paragraphs before I sign off.

The new Tesla: In the previous post, I promised to report further on the Tesla in future episodes. Here is a quick summary. First of all, we absolutely love it. We were both comfortable with operation within just a few minutes, but we are still discovering neat little features as we use it more. It’s super easy and smooth to drive and has all the safety features an old fart like me needs to feel at ease behind the wheel. And when you need it, such as merging onto a freeway, the acceleration is unbelievable – 0 to 60 mph in just over 4 seconds.

The Model Y that we purchased has the so-called “extended range,” which supposedly provides 320 miles of driving on a single charge. So far, we have driven 2,181 miles, but only up to 188 miles without charging. On that occasion, the car had only been charged to 90% of full capacity, and it still had another 50 miles or so left in the “tank.” I’m keeping detailed records of our charging sessions, and I have concluded that it won’t really get 320 miles on a single charge. The actual range varies quite a bit depending on many factors, such as elevation changes, speed, temperature, etc. It seems to go about 90% as far as the theoretical range if we drive continuously after a charge, and about 80% if we drive shorter distances over several days. So, the maximum range is probably about 290 miles on a single charge. It might not be as much in Minnesota in January, though.

OK, that’s enough for this overly long post. We are still feeling safe and well. Stay tuned as the adventure continues …

One thought on “The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn – PART 8: Ambling Back to Arizona

  1. The other grandfather of our grandchildren stayed in Kingman in the winter. The result was golf in Kingman and around Laughlin more than one year. I particularly enjoyed playing the Avi golf course owned by the Ave casino in native Americans. I played the first five holes and went under par and then the wheels rolled off in the desert….
    Your descriptions of the places that you stay in what you see and do are well done and I appreciate reading them. I’m mildly pissed that you get to play golf now and I don’t, but on the other hand I have resumed pickleball with mixed success. When I play with John moose we almost always win! Do you folks have a time when you intend to be back? I’m looking forward to our golf and scotch and conversation. Thanks again for the comments on the recent column.

    Like

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