Friday, March 29, 2013

Mittry Lake

We spent a couple days settling into more of a routine, while relaxing and exploring our nearby area. Riley prepared shoefly coffeecake for us Wednesday morning. He is usually the first one up and ready to eat so he looked at the recipe I had picked and did a fine job!

"School days, school days, dear old golden rule days"...
Coloring Arizona's industries, crops, cities, monuments, state bird & flower. Finding area, population, and statehood. We've been doing this for each state we travel through and attaching them to the student journals.
our yummy citrus gleaning

Meg's 1st tooth popped through at almost 8 months! Caroline has lots of fun toting her around, dressing her up, and treating her like a live baby doll.

a fashion result of being in Caroline's keeping
Around the bend from our campsite was the main boat ramp. We ended up swimming here a couple of times since it was a nice gradual slope into the water. It was interesting watching the boats & jet skis loading up and out. Another learning experience for the kiddos!

Ohhhh Cora! 

warm biscuits with chowder for supper
Our camp neighbor offered rides on his little fishing boat. You can read more of our lazy days details from Shannon's perspective here.

A Day In Yuma

We wanted to catch the Farmer's Market downtown on Tuesday March 19. After a short version of a school day, we loaded in the van to check out Yuma, Arizona. The drive into town from our campsite took us past the fertile valley fields. Buses (pulling portable toilets) were parked on the side of the fields that had brought laborers, and many other worker's vehicles lined the sides of the road. 

harvesting carrots

irrigation running
harvesting cabbage
We strolled down the blocked off street to check out vendor's wares, mostly looking for fresh produce. There were dainty pretties, kitchen tools, shoe magnets, fried tacos & flavored popcorn. We purchased a huge stalk of celery and cabbage for $1 each. Strawberries, asparagus, and lemons were in abundance as well.

One of the refreshing fountains on Main St.
White tents (like in the upper left) shaded the items for sale down the blocked off street

a beautiful bougainvillea near the farmers market

Next we popped in the visitor's center. Then to Gateway Park for a picnic lunch and playground by the Colorado River. A nice paved walkway followed the water's edge, but we soon got too hot to go very far.
Letters on the side of the bridge say Ocean to Ocean Highway. The river is the state border between AZ and CA. Here was a beachy area for swimmers, and there were several!

We ate in the shaded shelter. Caroline & Cora ate under the slides on a child's picnic table.
Next stop was worship with Ron and Opal at Community Church. Our friends at Big Bend recommended their weekly singing of old time music. We thoroughly enjoyed the almost 2 hours of spiritual refreshment, and the AC! We were by far the youngest in attendance and the only children there as well;  but it was still fun!

We made a parts stop and grocery stop before heading back to the motor home. Along the way we asked a fellow if we could pick some fruit that was going to waste, rotting on the ground and in the trees. With limited communication, we settled on just gathering the groundfalls. Riley liked the oranges best, but they were too far gone to get many. Mostly lemons...huge, beautiful, scented zests...and some sweet yellow fleshed grapefruit. If we could only capture the smells of the flowering trees and delightful citrus...

Hot dogs and the rest of the marshmallows for supper.

and a few mosquito bites to scratch

That was our day! Filled with bigs and littles, and as always many blessings. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Arriving at Yuma, AZ

Upon exiting interstate, slightly east of Yuma,AZ, we encountered a well advertised produce stand on the side of the road. It had lots to offer, but we selected a box of tangelos, 15lb bag of grapefruit, red cabbage, cauliflower, and red leaf lettuce...most grown locally. In this valley there are beautifully colored irrigated fields of green, red, and purple, plus citrus orchards. So excited to finally see a reasonably priced farm stand! A friendly worker there directed us on a quicker route to Mittry Lake, north of town, our free camping destination.

one of the many large lettuce fields

At Mittry there were quite a few camping spots right by the water. A graveled area up higher had nice views of the lake, but a fast running canal ran by the spots up there and we chose the safer swimming option below.

the view of Mittry Lake from our doorstep
-evening sun-

palms on the fishing jetty beside our campsite
-morning sun-
We settled into our spot and enjoyed a hearty meal that Riley requested. A Henderson southern favorite: beans, rice, and fried cornbread, topped with onions and plenty of bean liquor. (These limas actually boiled out most of their liquid. We're having trouble adjusting to the propane stove/oven. The burners go out if turned to low, so it's medium or high or relighting frustrations.)

Shannon dishing it up!

Riley was anxious to get a fire going and Caroline was delighted to help scavenge burnables. In Texas and New Mexico there were no wood fires allowed. It seemed funny to be at campgrounds without campfires, but it kept clothes and bodies a lot cleaner! So finally we got a roaring fire (before it had barely cooled off for the day)!
our own personal fishing pier beyond the fire ring to the right

A fun way to end the day!
roasted marshmallows & sticky fingers

Monday, March 25, 2013

Real Shannon

We met a hobo back in New Mexico in a Walmart parking lot. He was headed for Yuma, Arizona and said that folks were finding gold there in the Colorado River. We finally made it to Yuma this week and got settled on the side of Mittry Lake. It's public land used for fishing, hunting, 4-wheeling, and camping. For the most part it's quiet and peaceful. There are no facilities close except for the lake. Tom is parked next door from Wichita, KS; the first person we have met from home. He has been gone since the end of December taking his time and enjoying retirement.

Oh yes, the gold at Yuma! Time to start looking for gold....
You may be wondering what life is really like for the Bowmans on the road. Well, it's for real! We have been living in this motor home for a month and 11 days. It's fairly snug inside when we are all on board. We are learning what CLOSE family really is. From the table I can reach the sink, fridge, stove, oven, couch and everything on the table. Three on one side and three on the other and sometimes Meg is squeezed in between or on a lap at meal times. The hallway from the bed/bath end to the kitchen/living end is one lane only. If Heather and I happen to meet in the hall its a good time for a smooch, then one of us backs out or turns flat against the wall to let the other pass. We have 60 gallons of fresh water that can last 5 or 6 days if we really go easy on it. No, we don't shower every day and when we do they are very quick; no relaxing in there! Seems we are always on the lookout for a RV dump station and fresh water. The lights, furnace, water pump, leveling jacks, and the fridge all rely on batteries. When they get too weak it's usually sometime after midnight. Then the low voltage beeper on the fridge wakes me up because the furnace has quit  and the generator won't start. The first few times this happened I had to go outside and jump start the generator with the van. The generator would then charge the batteries. I  purchased some solar panels at a Harbor Freight store in Las Cruces. After installing them on the roof we are using all this warm sunshine to keep the batteries charged.

A couple days ago on the way to Tucson, Arizona, we were rolling down the road on a warm afternoon. As we started pulling a hill I felt the engine lose power and yes that sinking-heart feeling of being stalled on the side of the interstate. I fretted around for a while, then unhooked the van for the I don't know how manyth time. (When we want to drive somewhere in the van it's not as simple as backing out of the garage. The hitch has to be folded up, the windshield cover removed, light wire unhooked, and the breakaway cable disconnected. Then re-install it all and make sure the transmission is in neutral and steering wheel unlocked. Think about it next time you push the button on your visor to open the garage door.) Sooo, Cora and I took off for Autozone, 16 miles away, to test some ignition control components. Everything tested fine, so I drove back scratching my head. The motor home fired right up and has ran great, ever since. That was a week ago already. I'm guessing its the in tank fuel pump. Theory says if you keep the tank full the gas will keep the pump cooler and less chance of problems. My rationale computes it this way: If I have to replace the pump, the less fuel in the tank means the less weight I have to drop down in order to get to the top of the tank. Another factor is that we are on the California border and I am supposing gas to be at least a dollar higher over there.... so two birds, one stone... fill up the tank in Yuma before we pull across the state line, save money on fuel, and use that investment to keep the pump cool. Isn't that life? Every day has choices that have consequences, and there is grace in every moment. Father is encouraging us to relax into His reality and enjoy every moment. Paul said,"It's in Him we live and move and have our being."

Oh yes, the gold we are sifting out along the way...
Here is what's happening in the family. Riley is exploring every inch of his surroundings, skipping rocks, chasing birds & lizards. He likes learning about all the different animals, plants, and their habitats. All his research has drained my phones monthly allowance of data. He likes riding down the road letting the miles roll by and enjoying the scenery. Its that sense of freedom; I like it too. Annie is a real lady of virtue, she can handle meals, Meg, and most any domestic duty. Its a real treat living in the same family with her. She enjoys completing the junior ranger programs at the national parks and getting her badge and certificate. That feeling of accomplishment is a real delight for her. She also likes adventure.

The other day our neighbor Tom offered us the use of his small one man fishing boat. Caroline, Cora, and I took off for the other shore. When we returned I asked if Riley and Annie could take the boat themselves. Tom said it was up to me so we pushed them off from shore. The motor is a small trolling motor with a 12 volt battery...What could go wrong with Riley at the stern? After a while Tom was worried that the battery may have let them down so I decided to walk up the road in search for the missing sailors. I was just ready to leave when they appeared around the bend. As we pulled the boat up on the shore I noticed they were soaked. Riley kinda grinned and said "it got away from us." They had went up to the dock and tried to tie off and get out for a minute. When they both went to one end to grab the dock, the boat did just away... leaving both of them in the water. After retrieving flip flops and the boat, they took off with a very concerned observer asking, "Where are your parents?" This homeschooling is out of our control. God's classroom is anywhere in any way he chooses.

Another learning experience the other day was a Mexican fiesta. Four men and two women spent the afternoon on a little peninsula right out in front of our campsite. They had brought plenty of  buds and the Spanish chatter grew louder as they soaked up the suds. We got a break when half the party left for a bit, only to return with chips, sunflower seeds, vienna sausages, and yes, more booze. They were soon jumping in the water with squeals and laughter. As the afternoon wore on things finally began to settle down. Our neighbor Tom had to help two of the men haul one of the women out of the water. She thanked him and staggered off to the car. Some were in the vehicle blowing the horn and others seemed to be lingering in the weeds. They finally moved on leaving trash scattered from the parking lot to the waters edge. We had some good discussions as the children sorted through the events of the 'never to be forgotten' afternoon.

Caroline wants to stop at every playground we drive by. She enjoys exploring and collecting rocks, flowers, shells, and whatever treasures she can find along the way. She likes to ride on daddy's back when the trail gets long or the going gets tough. I am helping her with her math lessons, learning about money, it's value, and adding & subtracting. Kent gave each of the three older children twenty dollars before we left. Riley put his in the bank, Annie has hers in safe keeping, and my sweet little Caroline is investing hers in little treats for the family. You know the good stuff: cheese puffs, blow pops, gummies, and sweet slushies. The taste of the treats is far more thrilling than the tight clamped fist on a few dollar bills. Cora is the one who knows everything about what's going on. She has something to add to every conversation and situation. She will be included in every event and she wants to sit beside of daddy at every meal. Every time she sees a twenty five cent vending machine, she runs up, tries to turn the handle, and lifts the door looking for any little goody she can find. A few weeks ago at a laundromat she hit the jackpot- the skittle machine was giving free hand fulls! Nothing could have been better  in her mind! Our little Meg is sitting up and interacting more every day. She won't remember this trip, but we won't remember it without her. It's her cries we hear, her diapers we change, and it's her that we carry every step of the way. These are the good bonding times and we love her every minute. Heather is managing like a jewel, optimizing every moment and stretching our resources to the max. She is thriving in a kitchen the size of a girls playhouse, gets along with a bathroom the size of a telephone booth, and sharing a bed with Meg and I. She is Queen of this motor home, walking with me on a journey that I never dreamed could exist. Yes, we are having the time of our lives, moment by moment, by the grace of Father. Of course we have discouragements and tensions arise but when you are looking for gold... you let every thing else rinse on down the sifting screen. You save only the gold- a little sliver here and a small nugget there add up to an abundant life.

Traveling Through Southern Arizona

After Saguaro National Park we drove to Eloy, AZ- Pilot parking lot to spend the night. There was a large irrigated grassy area where we released some energy playing tag, Duck Duck Goose, racing, and rolling down the hill. Shannon visited with a Hispanic road worker that was sleeping in his truck for the night and I fixed supper.

Sunday morning we tried the GPS church listing again. The apostolic church we drove to 1st was a Mexican congregation who's services started at 1pm. Plan B was Church of Christ just down the way a bit that started a little earlier. This predominantly black congregation filled up their little church house with bodies, interjecting praises, and inspired singing! The people here were very warm, free to confess, requesting prayer, and enthusiastic.  The pastor taught on "Who Jesus Is"...The Word, The Rock, The Creator, The Sustainer. We enjoyed another dose of cultural learning!

We ate right across the street from the church, a simple lunch of reuben sandwiches and carrot sticks since we were sitting still. (It's much easier to prepare, assemble, and eat food while not swaying , jerking, and generally being jostled!) Then we hit the road again for a few hours until we reached a nice rest area just pass Sentinel on I-8. Spent some more time walking, running, exploring, and watching another magnificent sunset. There was a rocky barren area where previous visitors had formed names & other words with rocks. Also a gravel pile that became a nice sandbox substitute. Riley spied 4 Gambels Quail scurrying across the ground. There was a nice historic state display under a shelter. We read about the Southern Pacific Railroad that ran through this area to Phoenix. (Later this was part of our history lesson in the form of a journal entry in school notebooks.)
eating (or wiggling a tooth) outside is always more fun

quesadillas with fresh tomatoes

Monday, March 18 we started out again toward Yuma, AZ. One stop on the way was Dateland where grew towering date palms and loaded citrus trees. The building was rather touristy, like a gift shop, but we watched a short video of the harvest, then walked over to the orchard/grove.

What a lovely oasis!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saguaro National Park

91 degrees here today!

Nestled in among a large southwest city, Saguaro National Park is almost surrounded by small mountains in sprawling Tucson. (Technically Tucson divides the park, but we just visited the west district.) We followed our GPS down Gate's Pass Road until signs told us our long rig would not make it. So we drove around to an easier entrance which shortened our park exploring time. The girls got their Jr Ranger workbooks, but couldn't complete them before the visitor's center closed.

Riley finally got a snapshot of one of the elusive lizards

My camera window couldn't get the top of this mammoth Saguaro. 
I was backing into prickly cactus!

This must be an old cactus as they say it takes 10 years for a Saguaro to grow 1 foot.
We walked down the Javelina Wash Trail and Discovery Nature Trail. 
Leaving Tucson we saw some canal irrigated fields from the Santa Cruz River, and sheep & cattle grazing. With the craggy mountains in the background, the lush green was refreshing and made -another- beautiful view.

Road Scenes

We started our day in Silver City, NM. As we were leaving town, we saw a car wash high enough for the motor home next door to a laundromat. So we got everything cleaned up before motoring southwest through Lordsburg and on into... Arizona!

Just before crossing the AZ state line there was a stretch on I-10 that had multiple signs warning of dust storms. Then we saw this vast sandy area alongside the interstate. Thankfully it wasn't windy!

Lunch at San Simon rest area
Caroline did not want to share her water!
 Back on the road awhile until something went wrong! Fuel pump, maybe? Shannon did some tinkering then went to the nearby town to get testing and parts. We ended up on the side of interstate for around 3 hours. Very warm, but a slight breeze helped. While Shannon was gone I orally read some chapters in A Song for Your Honor, our current family read aloud.

After that afternoon rest, the RV engine started right up and took us to Willcox, AZ where Shannon checked things a little further and we spent the night.

Saturday morning we got back on the road toward Tucson...Camper's World and Saguaro National Park.