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North America March-June 2018

March 28, 2018

Puerto Penasco, Mexico.     17.3.18

 

My early memories of Frank Lloyd Wright are mainly from Simon & Garfunkel’s song and in a Life Magazine copy of many moons past which contained an article on his architecture and in particular, one of his most famous work, ‘Falling Water’. But 6 months of the year he would upend his students and family and head down to Phoenix Arizona where the climate was better for his health. He called his project here West Taleisin. At the beginning they would all sleep in tents while building and even to this day all the 47 students sleep in the desert either in tents or huts they design and build themselves. He died in the 50s just short of his 90th birthday but his work continues to this day. His philosophy was to always blend the building into the landscape: on the side of a hill, not perched on the top. Keep it low, he was 5’7” in height, he reckoned anybody taller was a wasted effort and many of the entrances into his room someone my height has to stoop they are quite low. The 90 minute tour was quite absorbing, Peter the volunteer guide knew his FLW.

So here we are back in Puerto Penasco, the bakkie is almost packed and we will hit the road Monday. Our intention was to cross the border tomorrow, Sunday, but it is the Spring Break over here and the place is overflowing with US visitors. Coming across the border yesterday the queue leaving Mexico would’ve been almost 2 kms long. It will be even longer come Sunday.

There have been so many things go wrong on this trip. Even before we left home with health problems, things breaking down just before we were to fly out. And that has continued with delayed flights meaning us arriving in Phoenix at 10.30pm then when we made it to the airbnb the bloke was expecting us the next day. His mistake not ours. It was available though. Getting marooned at Taleisin West because our Uber app wasn’t working and then arriving here to find our hotel that we had booked in Jan. and confirmed had not been recorded. Then there was the tablet left behind on the flight to Phoenix but fortunately the plane was there overnight, it was discovered and handed in. This bad luck has to stop sometime.

Puerto Penasco grows on you after a while. Overflowing with hordes from across the border, the downtown shops all kitch, the side roads are all dirt, sand buggies cruise the streets their young passengers sure to have hearing difficulties by the time they are 40 the music is so loud. Yet the locals are nice, we have found a couple of good restaurants and the weather warmer than what we can expect heading north.

 

Agua Blanco Ranch Entrance. Near Tucson, Arizona 19th March

There was a little apprehension as we neared the border. The bakkie had been in Mexico some 9 months and as the US are part of NAFTA as is Canada, there was the possibility the 12 months a foreign vehicle was allowed in the US, that time would include the time it was in Mexico. Meaning we would only be able to stay here three months. Many Overlanders had talked about this. But at the immigration drive through the all the officer did was to ask where our vehicle came from, when we said ‘Namibia’ he said ‘Where’s that?’ Scanned our visas and waved us on. Then it was to the customs some 20kms further on. Once more the officer made some comment about the steering wheel being on the wrong side, and we were through! Didn’t look at any papers and no inspection. Took less than 5 minutes all up not counting the travel between.

So it’s back to the US of A with a car that has no record of it entering the country. It means we can leave it in this country for as long as we need to. What am I going to worry about now?

We are free camping tonight at the entrance to this ranch. A big gravelled area that often has many RVs parked. But tonight we are alone. It is flat land with distant mountain ranges blending from hazy blue into black. The only vehicle we have seen is the sheriff driving in to see who was here, gave us a wave and was off. Very American.

The drive here today was through Tohono O’odham Reservation land. A land of rugged mountain, dry river beds and forests of organ pipe cacti. In fact there is a national park called after them that spans both sides of the border.

 

Tombstone. Southern Arizona 20th March

It’s wild country and Tombstone was a wild town. The discovery of gold and silver in the late 19th century brought the usual rush of those hopeful on quick riches. The town’s main street is dirt with only horse traffic allowed. The wooded board walks give the place more of an authenticity and many of the buildings are original or have been rebuilt in the same style. Unfortunately, Lisa, our guide for an hour, was very difficult to understand, she rambled and mentioned names maybe Americans may be more familiar with than ourselves. Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, Bat Masterson all frequented the town usually in Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in the Grand Hotel. The three storey original building was burnt down but the ground floor has been rebuilt and is now a quite memorable drinking place.

Did a big shop in Tucson today before coming out to Tombstone. Tucson is a pleasant town with some interesting buildings in the old area.

 

Outside Chicacaura National Monument. 21st March

Before leaving Tombstone, a detour to Boot hill was essential. The famed cemetery where so many of the inhabitants who met their end at the end of a bullet or noose are buried. In fact there is such an amazing variety of ways the residents died. It is a fascinating site and the epitaphs on some of the head crosses are quite comical: “Here lies Henry Moore. Four slugs from a 44. No less, no more” and “Here lies George John, hanged by mistake in 1882- He was right, we was wrong. But we strung him up, and now he’s gone.”

From Tombstone we headed east some 150kms to this interesting national park. Unfortunately the camp ground was booked out so here we sit, just outside the park, a few metres off a very quiet road, the area shared with a German couple and another vehicle that has just pulled up. The park is small but the rock formations are very impressive. Some perched on top of each other to form a smoke stack, others balancing at precarious angles and still others perched on a dinner plate.

This area is where Geronimo and Cochise gave the US army a hard time. The Chicahaura Apaches were some of the most feared of the tribes in the South West.

 

City of Rocks State Park. New Mexico. 23rd March

The name of the park is quite apt. Due to a nearby volcano erupting millions of years ago the eroding rocks have left this small area a mass of vertical rocks up to about 4 metres tall. The good thing though, people who don’t require electricity can park at isolated spots all around the rocks. There is a strong wing blowing but our site has almost a cave as a back drop meaning we can cook and eat tea in a more sheltered spot. The park has hot showers, fresh water and all for $10 a night for the two of us. Good value.

Yesterday was a fairly long drive on straight roads on Interstate 10. A good way to get somewhere in a hurry but not that interesting.

 

Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. 25th March.

Problems with the second battery meant we had to leave the City of Rocks a day earlier and make it to Silver City, the nearest city to have it seen to. The kind bloke at Werner Tyres stayed back after they were meant to close and went out of his way to help. We think the problem is solved as we are now in the National Park and everything is working well.

There are quite a few camping areas in this wilderness area, the one we picked is alongside the Gila River (pron: Heela) where the spring buds are forming on the riverside trees and trout frequent the river. I didn’t realize they would be this far south and hadn’t bothered getting my licence. Will do so first chance I get.

On pulling into a nice place alongside the river, Henry, a little man with a big hat wandered over to take a gander at a right hand drive vehicle. Our talk was interrupted by a sudden squall. After that had passed he came back, knocked on the door and presented us with a sprig of native flowers sitting in a Budweiser light can.

The Mogollon people built their houses in the side of cliffs in the late 12th century. I don’t know if much is known about this race but they inhabited these dwelling for a mere 30 years.

 

 

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