Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saguaro SKP Co-Op in Benson, AZ

Benson, AZ

On Friday we left Yuma and headed east on Interstate 8 moving ever closer to our "wintering over" location.  Because there is still an SKP Co-Op in this part of AZ we decided to investigate.  We jumped on Interstate 10, headed thru Tucson and arrived at the Saguaro SKP Co-Op in Benson, AZ just  after 2 PM.

All guests are escorted to their sites via the office.  This is done for several reasons. First, to aid a guest not familiar with the Co-Op layout and more importantly to make certain that the guest parks in the appropriate spot on the site.

In SKP Co-Ops there are normally two types of sites available to a "non-member" of the Co-Op. Either a regular FHU site or a dry camping site. The latter would normally be used by travelers just wishing to stay for a day or two, or could be used if the leased lots were full.

300 Series Sites
This Co-Op has two additional offerings, however. One section (700s) can be rented for up to 6 months at a time. The lots are unimproved, but have FHUs.  The second offering (300s) can be rented for up to 1 year and have a small shed in addition to FHUs.  Renters on both of these sites can come and go as they please within their period of rental.

All of the roads within the Co-Op are paved, very wide, and in very nice condition.

Another difference in this Co-Op from the ones we've visited thus far are the allowance of "casitas".  These can be up to 288 sq. ft. with an additional 200 sq. ft. under a patio.  The units are allowed to have water, electric, and sewer inside, but residents are not allowed to "live" in these units and there must be an RV on site for living. (This is due to the type of local zoning requirements for the type of park.) 

Some of the casita owners are quite creative with their designs.  There are many different buildings in the park.

Here's a front and rear shot of one of my favorite casitas.  It truly embodies the "look" of the southwest.

The park has a central clubhouse where meetings and activities take place.

Some of the spaces inside include a general meeting and dining area, a room for playing billiards, a puzzle room, a library containing books and videos, and a stage for shows.

The park also has a very nice (and very clean) laundry room.

Also, for those interested in woodworking, a small shop is open to anyone visiting the park.  The maintenance shed has a wealth of tools (rakes, shovels, etc.) which may be used by anyone.  Just sign them out.

Aside from the "improved" lots with casitas already on them, there are a few totally unimproved lots which are still available to those who would like to design and build their own structures.

If not interested in building a casita, you can just build a small shed to store a few items.

I'm spending a bit more blog space on describing and showing different facilities at this park because we're actually thinking about adding our name to the "waiting list" here.  We like the infrastructure of the park, but we really like the friendly people. We met a couple, Betssy and Tom, a few months ago at the Sutherlin, OR SKP Co-Op who told us that they have a leased lot here in Benson and that they would be back for the winter months.  When we checked in on Friday, we were a bit saddened to find out that they weren't here.  Well, guess who showed up on Saturday!  They are  a super nice couple and Betssy was on the "welcome" committee in Sutherlin and the first person we met there.

The Co-Op is at an elevation of approximately 3700' and is cooler in the summers than some of the valley areas nearby.  The views of the surrounding mountain ranges and desert landscape is "growing" on us easterners.

This view of the mountains from inside the park is looking back toward the entrance.

Even the various types of desert plants are beginning to look good to us.

Lastly, here's a picture of the park in relation to the desert and mountains as seen from the area of the water storage tank above and to the rear of the Saguaro Co-Op.

The Saguaro Co-Op is not our place for "wintering over" this year, however. Mainly because we've already made reservations for Nov. 1st thru Feb. 1st, and also because during the winter months the Co-Op will be full with leaseholders and it would be a bit tough to get a FHU site for any length of time. We'll be moving at the end of the week to that location.  Stay tuned!

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma, AZ

On Tuesday we visited the Yuma Territorial Prison.  Actually, it hasn't been a prison for many years, but is now part of the Arizona State Parks system.

The prison first accepted prisoners on July 1, 1876 and for the next 33 years 3069 prisoners (including 29 women) were held at this location.  The prison ceased to be a prison on September 15, 1909 when the last prisoners were transferred to a facility at Florence, Arizona.

The facility was neglected in the years to follow and much of the original facility was either altered to create a new bridge (to cross the Colorado River), or structures and equipment were vandalized or stolen, and the facility fell into disrepair.

Fortunately, a model is on exhibit to help visitors visualize what the prison looked like in use.

An excerpt from the Arizona State Parks website:

From the date of closure, the prison’s facilities have been occupied and used by various groups. After Yuma High School burned, the High School Board rented four structures and used them from 1910 until 1914. The school athletic teams became known as “The Criminals”. The County Hospital utilized the facilities from 1914 until 1923. In 1924, the Southern Pacific Railroad demolished the western one-third of Prison Hill to make way for the new tracks. The Veterans of Foreign Wars leased the guard’s quarters in 1931 and used it as their clubhouse until 1960. Hobos, riding the trains in the 1920’s and 1930’s, stayed in the cells, and homeless families during the Great Depression lived in the cells.

The museum has a display which speaks about the occupation of the facility by the Yuma High School from 1910-1914 and also details how the school's mascot "the Criminals" came into being. The school's football team was playing a game against a Phoenix team, which was highly favored to win, in the early years and the opposing team began calling the Yuma team criminals.  After Yuma won the game, they embraced the name (shortened it to the "Crims") and fashioned a mascot using the face of a "hardened criminal".

The museum details the first day of a new prisoner's life at the prison.  Some of those details included being photographed for their "mug" shot. The prison used a mirror placed at an angle to the prisoner so that a frontal and profile could be taken with the same photograph.  Of course, Karen and I had to take the opportunity to see what we'd look like as prisoners in the late 1800s.

 Actually, I somewhat resemble some of the criminals in the period.

Karen has way too much hair to be a prisoner.

Actually, prisoners were sent to the barber when they first arrived.

Although much of the original prison is gone today, several structures survive and give the visitor a feeling for the institution  back in the late 1800s.  The first is the main guard tower.  The tower was actually located outside the wall of the prison, but had a catwalk over to the wall which surrounds the prison. The area atop the prison walls were 5 feet in width and allowed the guards to move quickly between the corner stations.

The only entrance from the outside was thru the main entrance, or sally port.  The sally port entrance was large enough so that a wagon could be pulled between two iron gates, then searched, before allowing entrance or exit.

Today, once past the sally port, the visitor comes to the museum.  In the days of the prison, the museum now occupies a structure which was the mess hall for the prisoners.

There were a wealth of interesting displays in the museum which detailed the various offenders which were sent to the Yuma Territorial Prison. Offenders included everything from adulterers to bank robbers, forgers to murderers.


Once exploration of the museum is complete, the next area to visit is the actual cell blocks which housed the prisoners.

A view into each individual cell really "brings home" the point of how miserable it must have been to be imprisoned in this part of the country in the summer.  Each cell holds 6 prisoners with one shelf (along the back wall) used to house property and a single pot in the middle of the floor used as a toilet.

Originally, the bunks were made of wood, but due to bug infestation, metal replaced them.

Courtesy: AZ State Parks website

Unruly prisoners, or those who broke the prison rules, were sent to the "dark cell".  This was a single cell carved into the rocky hillside which housed up to 14 prisoners at one time. There was no toilet, only a grate on the floor.  Prisoners were fed bread and water once a day while inside. They were chained to the wall or a point in the center of the floor. Punishment usually ran from a few days to a week or two, but one man actually spent 120 days in the dark cell.

Moving away from the prison, a bridge known as the "Ocean to Ocean Highway Bridge" was completed in 1915. At first, I'm thinking ocean to ocean?  Then I learned that before the completion of this single-lane bridge it was necessary for vehicular traffic to divert 1200 miles to cross the Colorado River. This route followed the Old Spanish Trail which ran from St. Augustine, FL to Los Angeles, CA. The creation of the bridge and the bridge used by the railroad caused part of the Yuma Territorial Prison to be destroyed.

Now for something TOTALLY off topic for today's blog.  We visited the local Sam's Club in Yuma and we've decided that we really are in the Southwest (where, btw, it gets really hot in the summer) and saw the first canopied parking spaces we'd ever seen at a Sam's Club.  The top of the canopies have solar panels installed to take advantage of the "free" energy which is in abundance here.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Moving into Arizona and a New Tech Gadget

Yuma, AZ

Friday we left CA and headed toward the state we'll winter in this year, Arizona.  The drive was about 255 miles from the SKP Co-Op at JoJoba Hills, Aguanga, CA to the SKP Co-Op named KOFA in Yuma, AZ.  The trip was uneventful (always a good thing), but this time I was trying out a new gadget in the motorhome.

I recently decided to purchase a dash camera for our travels.  The decision was two fold.  First, it's a way to record our travels down the highways without having to constantly take pictures thru the windshield.  Secondly, and more importantly in my mind, is the ability to have the camera act as a "witness" in the event of a crash or similar event.  In this world of excessive litigation, sometimes just being in the "right" is not enough.

As many who follow this blog know, I am an active poster and follower of the Tiffin RV Network Forum. I've received a lot of help there and have received honest opinions of products.  This was the case when I began my search for a dash camera.

I had a few criteria to be met for a dash camera.  Price is always a concern and I didn't want to pay a fortune, but most importantly was the ability to capture a clear picture.  After following a few discussion threads on dash cameras I placed an order for the Windshield Witness. This camera is lightweight and comes with a suction cup window mount, an AC charger, a DC power cord, a USB cable, and either an 8gb or 32gb SDHC memory card (depending upon your preference). Best of all, the camera can record a true HD image at 1920x1080 or 1280x720 resolutions. The file format is .mp4 and files can be captured from a menu selection of 1,2,3 or 5 minutes, or a continuous capture (until the SD card fills).

The item is shipped from the Baltimore, MD area (I'm sure it's made in one of the Asian countries) and arrived to me in CA via USPS Priority Mail in short order.

Okay, with all of that out of the way, I thought I'd show an edited 86 second clip of our journey from Aguanga, CA to Yuma, AZ.  I've edited the trip to show different road conditions and ambient lighting.  SPECIAL NOTE HERE!  The full HD 1920x1080 video looks MUCH BETTER in the raw version coming out of the camera when compared to the following YouTube video because YouTube compresses their video so that it will transfer faster coming from the internet.

For some reason, the YouTube link is not playing well with Internet Explorer. (I think just a black box is shown.)   Just click on the "black box" and you should see the play arrow.

Make sure to select "720p HD" from the settings menu in the bottom right part of the YouTube screen below to get the best clarity available from YouTube's already compressed video.

Should you have any questions or comments please drop me an email.

Ok, enough product evaluation for today.   On to Arizona!

We're staying at the SKP's KOFA Co-Op in Yuma, AZ for the next week.  The entire landscape and climate is different from what we've experienced thus far in our travels this year.  The temperatures have "dropped" to the lower 90's now, but most owners in the campground have not yet returned for the winter. (BTW, the humidity midday is around 7-10%).  Remember, it's a dry heat.  Karen likes to say that it's a dry heat in an oven also. 

The entire CG is extremely flat, so an unlevel site is really not possible.  We have plenty of space around the rig.  In this picture, our site is from wall-to-wall.

I really enjoy the layout of the streets in this CG. All are very wide, so getting into and out of (all are back-ins) sites is very easy.  Also, no having to pull off to the edge to enable another rig to pass by in the opposite direction.

Being Yuma (and very hot in the summer months), a pool and hot tub are welcome amenities.  Only a few of the SKP Co-Op parks have pools and we were happy to see one here.

Landscaping is very different in the Southwest.  If you really have to see a lot of "green" and "tree cover" then the desert areas in this part of the country are not for you.  We have come to enjoy the variety of cactus and plants (many of them new to us "Easterners").

Aside from a central lounge which houses many of the activities in the park, there is also a very nice and clean laundry.

What blog on this area would be complete without the obligatory picture of the cactus.

Sunday was television football day for me (Karen went out shopping), so not much else was accomplished today.   Hey, how about them Washington Redskins!

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Visit to the San Diego Zoo

Aguanga, CA

On Tuesday we drove down to visit the San Diego Zoo. We had heard what a beautiful zoo this was, and we were not disappointed.

When compared to some other zoos we've visited, the admission was pretty steep at $44 for adults (found a 10% discount online), but it includes a single day admission, all day access to the Guided Bus Tour, and all day access to the Skyfari Aerial Tram.  If you're ever in the Washington, DC area and you like zoos, you really should go to the National Zoo.  Best of all, it's free to enter.

After entering the gates promptly at 9:00 AM, one of the zoo volunteers suggested that we visit the Panda exhibit.  He advised that later in the day the lines can be very long.  We took his advise and headed there first.  The pandas were doing what pandas do best, eating.

To get a nice overview of the park, we jumped aboard the bus for the Guided Bus Tour.  The double decker buses take visitors on a 35-minute tour around 70% of the park.  It was a good choice as we were able to plan our visit a little better after seeing some of the areas.

I love the monkeys, so that was our first order of business.  We watched this guy for several minutes and he was definitely playing to the crowd.  He would follow people as they walked past or stop and watch them as they stopped.

This guy was certainly less active, but I swear he knew what the human crowd was doing and thinking.  Just look at that expression!

So as to not drag this blog out, I'll just show some pictures of the various animals we saw.

Young polar bear


We also rode the Skyfari Aerial Tram.  Not only do you get some nice aerial views of the park, but the stations are located in the extreme east and west corners of the park allowing a quick mode of transportation to traverse this large park.

This view from the aerial tram was initially believed to be some type of church, but a later internet search revealed that it is actually the Museum of Man located in Balboa Park. I wish we had more time to make a visit. The description on their website looks pretty interesting.

The zoo has a large area devoted to elephants called the Elephant Odyssey.  This guy looks pretty happy.

The Outback area had quite a number of Koalas hanging about in the trees.  We learned that mature Koalas prefer to be the only Koala in a tree.  They "claim" their territory in that manner.

Giraffes are always an interesting animal to watch.

One of a few rhinos

Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake
The Reptile House, although a bit scary for many to visit, was quite informative.  The zoo uses a "red dot" system above the description of the reptile to indicate which are poisonous to humans. This rattlesnake is a bit different from most in that it has no rattles. 
Here's one for all of my friends (and family JEFF) back east.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Although we enjoyed the zoo very much, we were both somewhat happy to find the exit at the end of the day.  For some reason, we don't seem to be as young as we once were.  The San Diego Zoo was definitely a must see for those who like zoos.
Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!