(C)  2002-2014 J. Watson       All rights reserved  
Travel Letters
 RV Travel notes from
      the traveling gran'ma and gran'pa
Vol 17  No 1                                                                                                                                                  __  March, 2007_____________
Dear Gals… Your guys …
Our grandchildren… and sisters


Here we are for “Spring Break” on Mustang Island.  
College students flock to the beach on a schedule –
the local tourist bureau lists the college breaks by
school and dates.  The local media reports over a
hundred arrests for DUI in the first two weeks so one
wonders how long students will be welcomed.  

We left North Carolina a couple of weeks ago and
headed to Florida to visit those Florida folks.  A
pleasant visit.  

Last Sunday we headed west from Ocala.  This took
us just north of the hurricane ravaged coast of
Mississippi and Louisiana.  We avoided the worst hit
areas by going north of I-10 but did see a number of
trees that had fallen as well as new roofs on many of
the homes.  It’s been about a year and a half since
the devastating storms and you can’t miss seeing
that people’s lives are still disrupted.  It is a poor area
with many people living in small fragile homes.  

Our route took us through the bayou country of
Louisiana, which extends for miles.  Rice paddies line
the road.  Fishermen were clustered in some areas,
some in boats; others lined the shore of the bayous.  
Mosquitoes must be ferocious in summer.   

Our last trip in this area covered the coastal plains,
which have not yet recovered from the storms.  The
tourist office advised us to avoid the coastal parishes
(we call them counties) that were not yet accessible
to through traffic.  You may recall that area was a
high point on our earlier trips.

Mustang Island is a desolate area – great beaches
but little else, except the condo towers that line parts
of the beach and others are under construction.  Oil
rigs are visible off-shore.  We understand that our RV
park is being sold and a large condo with a golf
course will be built.  The almost uninhabited island is
becoming congested.  People bemoan the growth –
but don’t acknowledge that they are part of the
problem.  We are seeing it all over.  
TX; 3/30/07

We arrived here last evening after a couple days at
Rockport, TX.  Rockport is on the Gulf coast
protected by barrier islands. It has an active shrimp
and oyster industry.  We saw bushels of oysters in
heavy burlap bags being loaded for shipment to the

From Rockport we took a boat along the coast of
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to view the
Whooping Cranes (right).  What a sight!  They’re five
feet tall.  This is a birders’ paradise – so many
species.  One small island on the Intracoastal
Waterway had dozens of Great Blues.  

These are the only naturally migrating Whooping
Cranes in the world.  There were 242 this year.  The
number has been increasing in recent years – so the
species has apparently been saved from extinction.  A
non-migrating group in Florida has been expanding
and would be able to replace those in Texas if they
are lost.  (You may have read that the group led by
an ultra-light to migrate to the Ocala, FL area was
lost, except for one survivor, during a recent tornado.)
whooping cranes at Aransas

Today’s exploration was a visit to see pictographs
that were drawn on the stone protected by the
overhanging rock at Seminole Canyon State Park.  
This is just a few miles north of the Rio Grande River
on the US-Mexican border.  (On our way we passed a
border patrol car and just after that a Mexican
appearing man was crouched between some scrub
growth.  We assume the border patrol got him a few
minutes later.)  Now, about the pictographs—

After walking down the side of the cliff, 175 steps, we
arrived at the overhang.  These pieces of art are
believed to be three to four thousand years old.  The
color is still strong.  This area is extremely dry, just
fourteen inches of rain a year, so things do not
deteriorate.  There is no way to know what the  
artwork means or the reason for doing it.  Possibly it’s
just graffiti.  On the other hand they went to great
trouble to create a paint that is long lasting so possibly
it had an important meaning such as a religious
message.  Was it a mural for the living room ?  Was it
by the “Rembrandt” of the time?  Who knows?
Are pictographs idle graffiti or artwork?
CAMP VERDE, AZ; 4/9/07

Coming west we’ve seen the scenery shift from the
harsh arid southern Texas desert with scrub growth
with occasional deer and antelope.  As we’ve gone
further west we saw mountain peaks in the distance
and then as they became clearer we could see the
colors – reds, pink, orange; all contrasting with
shades of gray and brown.  Coming into Arizona we
started to see Saguaro cacti, some standing forty or
so feet tall.   Along the Mexican border there is little
evidence of irrigation except for occasional farms
growing almonds.  

From Camp Verde we’ve explored the area.  There
are several special places nearby.  

Montezuma’s Castle, built on the side of the cliff, is a
favorite and this is our third visit to the National
Monument.  This has five levels and housed around a
hundred people back 600-700 years ago.  They
farmed in the valley below taking advantage of the
creek and fertile land.  Archeologists say the
inhabitants and those of nearby communities left the
area in the early 1400s and they have no way to
know the reason.  
There are various cacti,
mesquite, creosote and
other plants.  One that
we were familiar with in
Connecticut is the
yucca.  It is in full bloom
here.  If you look
carefully at the photo to
the left you’ll identify the
yucca.  The picture is of
a pictograph at
Seminole.  Fiber from
yucca was used to make
rope, clothing, etc. so it
was an important raw
material to the early

At Sedona we learned a lesson – there is red soil here
that is every bit as red as they have on Prince Edward
Island.  Here the key attractions are the rock
formations.  For miles there are large formations, so
many that we drove around the area for a couple of
days.  They’re mostly red but some have other colors.  
With these natural attractions there has been a
population surge with an extensive road building

                                          Sedona, AZ

This region of America was quite heavily populated
back a millennium or so.  People in each local area
developed a life style that was dictated by the
materials at hand.  In South Texas we went into a cave
dwelling.  Montezuma’s Castle was made by using
adobe to fashion walls to enclose their living space on
the cliff side.  At Tuzigoot National Monument (below)
the Sinaguan people used large stones and an adobe
mix to create their pueblos.  This assured soundproof
walls between rooms unlike today’s condos.  It’s big.  
There were 110 rooms on two floors.  

Nearby is Jerome.  This was a thriving city back after
the turn of the last century.  The population topped
over ten thousand.  The copper mine was rich, not
only of copper but it yielded gold, silver and lead.  
During WW2 the copper was vital to the war effort.  
The copper ran out in the ‘50s and the town now has
only 400-500 people who survive on the tourist trade.  
It’s rugged country and as far as the residents are
concerned it is aggravated by the fact that every now
and then the old mine tunnels collapse and cause
homes to slide down hill.  

Four days ago we entered Nevada by way of Hoover
Dam, nee Boulder Dam.  Each vehicle approaching the
dam is inspected by Homeland Security – an agent
came aboard to check our unit and another randomly
selected outside cabinets to be opened and
inspected.  Commercial trucks are not permitted over
the dam.  

To build it they built a town to house the workers.  
Before pouring any concrete they constructed two
tunnels around the site through solid rock cliffs so the
water could be diverted.  Then a dam was constructed
to keep the site dry.  The amount of concrete involved
would have created so much heat while drying that
cooling tubes were run through the wet concrete to
make it harden quickly.  And to prevent cracks caused
by partial drying between batches they worked 24/7.  

After crossing the dam we entered Nevada and skirted
Las Vegas.  You can’t skirt the casinos – they seem to
be everywhere.  Then, on to Death Valley in

Death Valley is hot (avg. 90 F high in April) and dry
(about 2.5” of rain a year).  Everyone knows this.  In
fact we wondered whether or not we should venture
here this late in the year.  Gals, you know that we’ve
been to three rain forests and in each we were as dry
as a bone – well, our experience at Death Valley was
also a bit of a fluke.  Yesterday morning was normally
cool for here – about 65o F and crystal clear.     Then
we drove a bit and it became so cool that we put on
sweat shirts.  Then, it started to rain – here in the
desert!  It was the first rain they’ve had since last
October.  We met a group who had been sleeping
under the stars – of course it never rains here, they
learned otherwise.
as Southern California.  It
was built in five years;
ahead of target and under
budget!  That’s the way it
was done back then.  I’m
sure that if we were to
build it today it would take
more than five years to
conduct the hearings.  It is
more than two football
fields thick at the bottom.  
700 feet tall.  Lake Mead,
which was created by the
dam, is about the largest
man made lake in the
United States.  This is
active as a recreation area.

The dam is open to
tourists and it is an
extraordinary experience.  
Inside there are sixteen
monster generators.   The
picture is a bit deceiving
as like icebergs, most is
below floor level.  
In addition to flood control and water for seven
surrounding states it also generates electricity that
serves areas as far away

As you would expect we did see some sand dunes,
but mostly the area is covered with rocks and small
stones.  The photo above shows the dunes we can
see from our window.  

We have especially enjoyed hiking in the canyons
that go deep into the mountains that edge the valley.  
The mountains have generally muted colors, but
occasionally there are vivid contrasts – one area has
dark brown contrasted with light tan, which Ida calls
“chocolate and vanilla”.  

Back in the 1920s a con man by the name of Scotty
showed the area to a Mr. Johnson saying he had a
gold mine here.  He didn’t but Mr. J fell in love with the
area, bought land and built a “castle”.  Scotty
represented the castle as his own, which he said he
had built from the earnings of his successful mine.  
Thus the name “Scotty’s Castle”.  It is now open.  It’s
sort of an uncompleted desert version of the Hearst
Castle.   The Great Depression hit and many planned
amenities were cancelled, like the unfinished pool,
outdoor statuary area, etc. but the remaining
furnishings are exquisite.  
YERMO, CA; 4/18/07

This is the first trip we’ve had to stay at a campground
for days at a time because of high wind warnings. With
a high profile motorhome and light weight this wind is
of concern.  We arrived here yesterday and are
staying at least a day because of the wind forecast.  

Looking over this letter I see that the pictures don’t tell
you what we’ve really seen.  They say “a picture is
worth a thousand words”.  But unsaid is that it usually
takes at least a few words to lead the viewer to orient
themselves to the picture. Like many places we've
visited, pictures just can’t portray the majesty of the
scenery and certainly words don’t.  That is definitely
true of the vistas we’ve enjoyed on this trip.  

Statistics also don’t give the whole story.  We’ve gone
4,137 miles on this trip and about 1,394 on the
Interstates.  That means we’ve traveled two thirds of
the time on a lot of smaller roads in scenic areas,
often with no chance to stop and get a picture of the
views because of the twists and turns of the roads.