Monday, January 30, 2017


The strong winds died down a bit on Saturday morning so we left El Centro and headed east and south to our next stop in Ajo, Arizona.    This small town is smack in the middle of nowhere and doesn't have much to offer nowadays unless its a quick stop on your way into Mexico.    It once was a thriving mining community with a lovely little downtown area.    My camera died as I was taking pictures of the central square so I only have a few shots of the two white churches flanking it.  The square and churches reminded us very much of a Mexican town.

I loved the local references on this stained glass window
the Ajo Lilly, mountains and Saguaro

The town is a mix of small neatly kept homes, abandoned shacks and quirky, one of a kind places.  

Just down the street from our campground, Shadow Ridge, is a very old house trailer painted in a bright rainbow of colors.   It is neat and clean with interesting sculptures in its yard.   Next to it is a home that is falling down, literally.

 Lots of border patrol presence here as it is so close to Mexico. Our campground has two full rows of trailer/manufactured type homes owned by "the government" to house the increasing number of border patrol employees.

People are extremely pleasant and friendly both in the campground and in the town.   There is one small grocery store and its aisles go from groceries to plumbing and building supplies and back again with no obvious rhyme or reason.

In the morning and evening a troop of Javelina roam the campground looking for whatever they look for, food probably.   The manager warned me not to leave any plants outside or they would be gone by the morning.   Early last evening I spotted them poking around the row of motorhomes in front of us but by the time I got the camera out they had moved on.

The tailings and huge pit of the New Cornelia Copper Mine dominate the town.  Its closing in 1983 was a major catastrophe for the town, it was the only employer.

We drove up to the mine pit overlook this afternoon and met an old timer (86 years old) and former mine employee who runs the tiny mining museum there.

the blue/green water is a spring seeping through the pit's walls

He was full of stories and was happy to share his information and feelings.   He feels the mine can be reopened again in the near future, with this new president.
The ore is still in the ground, waiting to be uncovered.  

Inside the museum he showed us pictures of what the land looked like before the open pit began.  The three mountains peaks in the photo above stood where the gaping 1 1/2 mile wide, 1200 feet deep hole now waits.     This area has been mined since the 1500's he says, Indians worked surface veins of copper for dyes they contained and the Spanish began to dig shafts for gold and silver in the 1700s.

This next photo is just for Pam.....what do you think about this crested Pam, have you seen it anywhere?

He showed us other things that have come from this mine, other rocks and minerals and....a number of varieties of turquoise, one in particular was of interest to us.    He says there is no more available anywhere, but now I'm on the lookout.      Our first company was named Papago Plastics!

After the museum we took a scenic loop road, a dirt road really, through the beautiful green desert and back into Ajo past the colorful mine tailings.

One area of Saguaro's seemed to be particularly fertile!   I don't think I've ever noticed such prolific growth.  

Yesterday we drove south, through the even tinier (is that a word?) town of Why and into the Organ Pipe National Monument.   The town is at a Y in the road, hence the name.......

 Pam told us to make sure we got the "not so Junior ranger" booklet so we could find all the crested cactus along the main drive.    We saw at least 5 on the way to the Visitor's Center and then, with the help of the booklet, saw many more we would have surely missed.  

If you're not interested in seeing any more cactus, now would be a good time to stop reading.

the rare crested shadow

the crest on this Organ Pipe cactus is so beautiful

Enough cresteds for now.

At the visitor's center we were given another booklet that would tell us about the landscape through which we would drive.   The types of plants we would see, the types of animals we may see, the reasons why things grow where they grow and a bit of the history of the Sonoran desert and this park were in the little guide.   Lots of information.  I tried to keep track of each point and read about what we were seeing, but eventually gave up and just enjoyed the views.    I read it later, at home.

Arch 1 and 2

Organ Pipe and Saguaro

Organ Pipe cactus march up the sunny south slope

this huge Organ Pipe not only looked like it was a live creature swaying in the stiff wind,
it sounded like one.   wind whistling through its spines made an eerie rustling noise. 

colorful mosaic sign welcoming us to Ajo
We're off to Naco in the morning.    Pam and John are there already, waiting for a week of golf!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Back to real time

We're still in El Centro.   The schedule was to leave here this morning and make our way to Ajo but the winds kicked up this morning and we like to think we learned our lesson about driving a high profile vehicle in a high wind advisory.

Driving through the center of El Centro (I know, that sounded a bit redundant) we noticed this traffic signal looked odd and it was hard to clearly see the illuminated color.

When I zoomed my camera in I saw it was more than just a traffic control device.  It was a high occupancy condominium!

The reason for our El Centro (not exactly a destination) visit was to take a farm tour conducted by the University of California's research facility in Holtsville, a few miles from here.

Every time we pass through this area we wonder about what is growing in the huge, immaculate fields.   We wonder what the workers are picking, why the rows are planted the way they are, what the machines are doing in the distance, why one canal looks full and another is almost empty.    We wish they would label the fields along I-8.    Every single time we pass by....every single time.  Evidently we aren't the only ones.    Pam and John took this Farm Smart tour last year and we planned our winter's travels so that we will be here in January for the start of the year's tours.

The cost is $25 and I wondered if it would be worth the price.....After spending 5 1/2 hours at their 250 ish acre site in Holtville I can honestly say it was!    Coffee and home made cookies (and strangely....popcorn) during registration, a cooking/eating demonstration (carrot salad made from their own carrots), an interesting classroom presentation about agriculture in the Imperial Valley, its history and water issues (past and present) and some interesting videos of all the very specialized machinery used to harvest and pack our vegetables.  Afterward our host answered our questions, gave us a little honey tasting (locally produced honey) and sent us back to the welcome area for lunch.    Have you ever tasted avocado honey?    Mmmmmm.    

Dave enjoys his cup of coffee while we wait for the tour to begin

these two were recruited to help with the cooking demonstration

We saw evidence of the children's programs this staff conducts. Next to the classroom is a pizza garden complete with wheat, tomatoes, and herbs.

red durum wheat

illustration of how much water it takes to produce a dressed cheeseburger!

After lunch we boarded the tractor pulled hay wagons for the trip into the fields.

We wondered if they were doing an experiment on the hay/straw bale seats to see if contact with human buttocks caused them to regrow.

The tractors pulled us through the experimental fields, stopping here and there for explanations and questions.

The tractor ride wasn't bumpy exactly, but it's movement made it hard to take photographs.      My tactic became, aim at something, shoot, and hope you have  it in the frame.

No one home in these burrows

In one area, a colony of burrowing owls had taken over holes next to the farm road.   Their homes were marked with little pink flags so no one accidentally fills them in while maintaining the road.   Our vehicles couldn't stop, only slow a bit so..... point, shoot, point, shoot.

nope, not here either

almost missed this little guy....look at those yellow eyes!

success at last!
I finally got lucky and captured these two curious guys, making eye contact with us as we rolled by.

We learned about the various types of irrigation being tried and used in the valley.  Some very high tech. and some very rudimentary.

One of our drivers demonstrated the process of siphon irrigation and invited us to give it a try.     Needless to say, it wasn't as easy as it looked!

We even had a bit of entertainment by way of Blue Angel flyovers and practice runs.

Surrender Dorothy!

At the morning's registration we were given an orange bag, at the end of the hayride we find out what we'd use those bags for.

We pulled up to a huge vegetable garden, rows and rows of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, turnips, carrots of all colors, celery, daikon radishes, leaf, romaine and head lettuce, etc.    We all waded into the thick green rows and dug, and pulled and cut as much as we could carry away.   Pam suggested we take our own knife along on this tour....we were glad we did!

a worker harvesting carrots

and lettuce

At the end of the afternoon we were treated to ice cream and a little door prize action before lugging our heavy bags out the driveway and into our cars.

Beluga's refrigerator overfloweth.....