Arizona welcomes you

Well I think I know where all the money in the US is tied up…

there are millions of $ in RV campers and buses just outside Quartzsite AZ – just parked out in the desert by the thousands.
Nothing to see. nothing to do. Sitting in the blazing sun. Some of them with the wagons circled and their folding chairs set up in the center. It is really the most surreal thing.

but the sun is shining the air is warm – and I can see why most of them come here to dry out. (I mean away from the winter weather, not the detox clinics)   the warmth just feels SOOOOO good.

still need to photograph the other sketches and paintings so far…but here is some of our adventures from the last week.
(Just click on the thumbnail photos for a larger view)


Day 6 thursday Mendocino to  Napa Petrified Forest pics



An early morning start found me at the Cabrillo Point Lighthouse at dawn- painting in the car – and then an incredible drive and gusty walk along the Mendocino State Park. DO NOT MISS THIS if you are ever here! Only a few hundred feet from town…the cliffs, rock formations surf and views are breathtaking.

Heading for Napa Valley hoping for some warmer weather – but it looks like more rain for the next week. Too bad – we will have to stay inside and taste wine. that should be really hard to take.

Petrified Forest – I am never one for hoakey roadside attractions…but take a few massive redwoods, blow them down with a volcano, cover them with ash, and then let them cook for 3 million years. This was fabulous. I had the complusion to tap on one with my camera – to hear it clink like stone. Every grain and chunk of bark preserved – and sparkling in the sun in some places. It was also a wonderful place to get to ground (after driving through it for days) in the native forest. Huge White oaks, Black Oaks lots of Arbutus (Madrone here in the US) and a beautiful dark red barked Manzanillo. Clumps of dark Mistletoe attached to the bare branches on many of the trees, and the deep corky cracked bark of the white oaks.



Day 7 Friday 20 @ Napa Valley CA

Silverado Trail – up the east side of the Napa Valley
some tastings at Stags Leap and wandering at Robert Mondavi beautiful buildings, covered porticos and grounds with simple stylized stone animals by San Francisco sculptor, Beniamino Bufano. although the rain was pouring down it was still a stunning site.

The vinyards and huge oak trees and forest hills in the fog along the valley were great. Calistoga was our favorite little town on the Napa loop – great coffee and treats at the Village Bakery/Cafe and a chat with the sociable volunteers at the visitors center. Lots of lovely old bungalows and autocourt traditional motels. Not the pretense of St Helena…like the who’s who of shopping and dining. Seems to be prosperous enough around the valley. HUGE winds and flooding rains during the night – but not too bad setting off.

Looking at the weather pattern coming in and all the problems with snow in the passes, visibility and flooding on the coast…we have decided to skip San Fransisco and the lower coast (Monterey/Carmel) and head inland for the desert. The Sacramento Valley and on east of the mountains will be drier it seems. Unfortunate as it would have been Chinese new Year celelbrations in SF. Quite something in the largest Chinatown in North America.

Day 8 Saturday 21 to Palmdale CA

Landscape changed again with the valley opening up – flat flat flat ! but the storm was right behind us all along the trip. it made for some really dramatic views of dark black skies with breaking sun and cloud shadows racing accross the miles of farmland extensive almond and pistacio plantations. Actually saw some orange trees – you know you are in Califonia now.

And after a long driving day, quick stay in Palmdale. Should be named Mall-dale. What a phenomenon of consumerism. We went round and round for blocks in and through HUGE malls…and still couldn’t find a simple food market. Still windy and cold. managed to dine in a family owned italian joint not far from our hotel. (Doing Best Western where we can – CAA and membership discounts and some nice upgrades and perks so far- all with internet, some with pools and fitness centers and laundry – Although I have enjoyed the freedom of random daily driving routes – it helps my uber travel planning mania to have SOME idea where we might be sleeping ;-)

Day 9 Sunday 22 to Joshua Tree CA

not a soul in sight – we figured they must ALL be at church…only to find the “flea market” booming on the way out of town. Thousands of cars – mostly Mexican shoppers and vendors. And some sunshine teasing us way out in the distance. Stopped at a little Hungarian sausage and meat roadside shop…another great find with fresh sandwich meats and breads.

Got in to Joshua Tree about 2pm – Hit the really good info center at the west entrance and found our site in Hidden Valley…with time enough to be stunned by the desert views and rock formations. Proceeded to to pitch our (very large) tent for the first time. Not quite the same as practising in the driveway at home.
but what a marvelous place. mostly young folks here, climbing and bouldering. We wandered through the cactus & joshua trees ( open and sandy underfoot with lots of trails) to see the light descend upon the stones. Still pretty windy and there had been some campsite closures on the south side of the park with the high winds on Sat. Very cold – but you should see the stars!
Mittens, touques and extra socks for this camping – and I am feeling a little of the altitude (3000-4500ft) with headches and a racy pulse. And a bit spaced out…but then who would notice that. ha ha

Day 10 Monday 23 @ Joshua tree CA

out early to photograph the light…and we both agreed a day exploring here was worth another chilly sleep, but I decided to take it very easy with no strenuous hiking. So after a quick trip out of the park for breakfast at the Crossroads Cafe (awesome healthy food) I stayed near camp and got my painting stuff out, and Brian headed for a short excursion to the nearest hill.
he park info signs on many and trails and pullouts everywhere…and it must just crawl with visitors in the summer. We headed down to the lower Cholla Cactus garden in the afternoon, with views way out to the Coyote mountains to the southwest. Hard to describe this unique place. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Managed to get out the acrylics today on a little 8×10 panel – but I have the camera permanently set for wide landscapes and still it doesn’t seem to tell the whole story of these stones and skies and high desert.
Lots of birds, cactus wren, Blue jay, hawks and vultures soaring. And critters – bunnies (not the tall desert hares) and a very cheeky raven & ground squirrel. There is a rumour of bush rats in the cactus garden in nests built up of cactus balls under bushes (like beaver dams) that have been there for 10,000 years! I just love the light. and shadows changing everywhere. I don’t mind a bit that I have been wearing mittens for 3 days (and nights!) and the stars!!!!

Heading not far down the road – around the mountain ridge to Palm Desert tommorow.

Day 11 Tuesday 24 to Palm Desert

Warm air. Sunny. and palm trees against a blue sky when you open your eyes floating in the pool. Not too shabby. You know you’ve made it to the sun when Brian gets out his sandals and even gets into the pool for a swim!
A bit of a domestic day – Showers, laundry, charging phones and batteries and time to write, download and sort out the hundreds of photos that I took in Joshua Tree.
Trying to decide on where to head next and heard back from my contact in Sedona – an artist with a lovely studio gallery and little casita on the property.
So now that we have our dates to stay (while I attend a 4 day painting retreat – my christmas present) we can plan the next stage. Listen to me planning…but I need to give Brian destinations to put into the TomTom (Monsieur Thomas) so that he can have his techno fix. I hate the thing – but it is proving helpful when entering a strange city or looking for the hotel after a long day.

Day 12 Wednesday 25 driving to Pheonix on Hwy 10

This is the true desert. like a dead flat empty lake bed with some rare bumps of blackened volcanic rock piles. Quite beautiful in a start and dramatic way. the haze of light and dust makes the rugged distant mountains blue under huge skies. Once we dropped down from the elevation at Joshua Tree to Palm Desert we drive up several long elevation grades to another plateau level and came to the very flat desert. The sign at the rest stop advising ‘ keep your pets in the designated area as there are poisonous snakes and scorpions”
OK….I’ll stay on the path…you don’t have to tell me twice!

Stopped in Blythe, just before the AZ border for a Starbucks (sorry Aileen) and taco. and saw the best old retro 50’s corner “lounge”. still a working cafe. Saw our first Saguaro cactus and plenty of trucks on this highway. Lots of BC license plates. Snowbirds eh.
Rolled into Phoenix just as the sun was setting behind the palms – into the pool to clear our heads, a little slice of moon on the rise,  and then enjoyed some of our homemade sandwich grub. (not the Pub & Grub next door thankyou)
Day 13 Thursday @ Pheonix & Scottsdale

it is Art Walk night in Scottsdale (famous for its galleries) so we are headed over there tonight, and hope to take in Frank Lloyd Wright’s “winter” residence early in the day.


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