Winter Snowbird Trip to Phoenix, Az. and Borrego Springs, Ca.

November, 2009

Copyright © 2010 by John and Eleanor Coulthard
Permission to copy for non-commercial purposes is granted provided the source is acknowledged

Oct 29: Oliver to Salt Lake City

Tuesday took us from Oliver down through the Okanagan, into the USA in generally beautiful conditions. The border crossing was fast (only two vehicles in the line up) and uneventful.

We stopped briefly at Pendleton to reconnoiter. The weather was beginning to look  threatening but the very pleasant people at the Tourist Office were able to check the highway webcams and noted that the road was still bare.

But the roads didn't stay that way. Between Pendleton and La Grange, going up a steep hill, traffic suddenly ground to a halt and we felt like we were all alone in a sea of gigantic tractor trailer trucks, and not a clue as to what the problem was. There was a light sleet coming down.

About half an hour later traffic started crawling along at a walking pace and we found out what the problem was. Storm approachingSlush on the road had compacted to what was almost black ice and traction was very poor. Any attempt to speed up would cause the wheels to break loose and the car would start to skid to the right. But we had great snow tires and as long as we took it easy were keeping up with the big rigs. We passed a small compact on the shoulder with a driver busy putting chains on the wheels.  Shortly thereafter we drove out of the clouds and onto bare, if not dry, highway.

We arrived in Baker City as it was getting dark. Drove around a bit and decided to stay at the "Always Welcome Inn" because it was a reasonable distance from the freeway and had a nice view. Supper was not memorable and we fell into bed very early.

Up in the morning, and after a pathetic excuse for a free continental breakfast were off to an early start in frosty conditions. The roads were in great condition. The traffic was light and we had little problem staying at the speed limit of 75mph (120kph).

There was a lot of highway work going on as we entered Salt Lake City but we still had lots of daylight and some good luck. "Turn off here" said Eleanor studying my Google Map printouts, but it was too late. I took the next turnoff and it turned out to be a lot better and we managed to easily locate Dave and Inga's house. Snow on the road.

We will be relaxing and enjoying the hospitality at the home of Dave and Inga here in Salt Lake City for a few days. The symphony beckons tomorrow. We both still have a lingering cough and are enjoying relaxing and de-stressing. The weather is still quite cool with frost at night but it is getting warmer daily.

We expect to start heading south to Phoenix on Saturday or Sunday.

All is well,

John & Eleanor.
Chapman House

Nov. 1: Salt Lake City to Phoenix Kanab

We left Salt Lake City on Saturday and the weather was improving, and we were heading South. We had a lazy start after  a nice prolonged breakfast with Dave, Inga and Dave's brother Tony. After we got off the ugly freeway around Salt Lake City the countryside really improved. We enjoyed  watching the scattered junipers and pines go by, the terrain we really like.

Later in the afternoon we rolled into a little place called Kanab and found what we were looking for - sunshine and warmer weather. Kanab was the  site of many western movies Lake Powelmade in the fifties; surrounded by red crested bluffs where the Indians would be silhouetted. Then we crossed into  Arizona crossed over Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell and the Bryce Canyon. Hot sunny weather was to come after another long traveling day.

While filling the car with gas shortly after we entered Arizona the "musac" playing in the background was suddenly replaced by a seductive male voice, "You don't have to go to a grocery store to get good wine. We have an excellent selection of red, white and blush wines. Just step inside". Boy... we sure know we aren't in Canada any more.

 Sunday afternoon we rolled into Peoria (a suburb of Phoenix) and entered the gated community of Vistancia. A beautiful community built five years ago around a first class golf course.  Temperature is about 80F (it went to 90F/33C today). We went cycling this morning and swimming at the posh club the "Kiva" this afternoon. Tomorrow we are going hiking south of Phoenix early before it gets too hot we hope.

Life is good.
John & Eleanor.


Nov 9: Phoenix to Borrego Springs

We were staying with our friends Murray and Nicole who are renting a house in the very modern, upscale, gated community called "Trilogy at Vistancia", which is actually in Peoria on the North/West side of Phoenix. The community encloses about 1500 houses, a luxurious recreation centre called the "Kiva" and the only five star golf course in Arizona.

The houses are all architecturally the same but each is subtly different. So the houses all look sort of the same, but they are not... It is easy to get a little bit lost in this vast community. None of the houses have lawns but all sport nicely trimmed trees and shrubs. The main boulevards are beautiful and green, as is the golf course. The end effect is quite nice.

There is lots to do just within the community. The rec centre has several swimming pools, gigantic hot tub, superbly equipped weight lifting room and many organized activities.

It is easy to cycle anywhere inside Vistancia and outside the gates the "Discovery Trail" is a paved multi-purpose trail that goes farther afield into the desert. There are chipmunks, geckos, rabbits, road runners and lots of other bird life. Cacti are everywhere and we were warned not to go off the trail unless we have very special tires on our bicycles. We were also warned in no uncertain terms to not touch the cactus - which apparently will leap out and grab you if you are unwary.
To go farther afield a car is required and the distances are vast. Murray, Nicole and Eleanor went on a nice hike that turned out to bePeak an hour and a half away (well they got lost on the way). The view at the top was lovely.

Several days later we had a bike ride in the Scottsdale area. It was a little over an hour going there early in the morning and less than an hour coming back in the afternoon heat.

The bicycle ride goes down a manicured drainage canal on a paved multi use path. Bike RideQuite lovely.

On Friday night we enjoyed a night out at the Kiva Club. Saturday was a community wide "garage sale". Murray and I were invited to a "Jamming" session with a bunch of other musicians in the afternoon.

Riding around Vistancia the place seems deserted, but  people must be indoors, hiding from the heat. It really is quite an active community. It is very easy to meet people. Murray and Nicole are already participating in a local bicycle group and they met some fellow hikers at the Jamming session.

Alas our time came to an end and early Sunday morning we headed out for Borrego Springs to sample new delights. DesertSunday was a great day to drive. The traffic was light and the trip was straight forward. The scenery was mostly, well, desert. Mostly flat, but sometimes the flatness was broken by low hills.

Borrego Springs was a 6 hour drive. About 1pm we had found the Jeff and Lynnette who were most welcoming and helped us move into our rented 28 foot trailer. We will be here for a week.

Borrego Springs has a "small community" feel to it. The town is small and the RV park we are staying in is just outside Borrego Springs (an easy bike ride) and is part of a complex that includes a golf course and a 300 unit subdivision of permanent manufactured homes. The facility is not gated, although we do get a car pass and generally the feeling is very relaxed - houses and cars are left unlocked much of the time.

The swimming pool and rec centre are right opposite our trailer. It is not as elegant as Vistancia but is quite adequate.

Last night we went to a dinner with a group of star gazers. There was a rather excellent speaker whose topic was the Milky Way, followed by a chance to look through a telescope in a small observatory across the street. Quite nice.

Borrego Springs through education and community involvement has earned the title of "International Darksky Community" only the 2nd one in the world. They try to keep all lights faced downwards at night so the skies are light free and the stars are brilliant. We saw the moons of Jupiter, the Pleiads, etc. with a scope.

John & Eleanor.

Nov. 13: Borrego Springs - Fun in the sun.


Here is the view from our Trailer - looking south. On the left is one of the holes from the golf course. In the centre is the tenting area. There was a tent trailer there one night and a full- sized RV and tender sharing a site on another. Otherwise our view is uninterrupted. In the distance in the middle is a small white dot - that is the observatory.  On the right is the tennis court and out of the view of the picture is the recreation centre with pool and four small hot tubs.

Rec centre   Pool  Hot tubs  

Behind the Rec. Centre you can see the mountain range on the west side of Borrego.

Borrego Springs is a small town with a population of about 2,500. It is surrounded by a huge state park. It is easy to cycle from here to Borrego Springs to go shopping. There are no "big box" stores but most of the things one needs are available. Here is a link to a description of Borrego Springs on Wikipedia. The first few days were pretty hot with high's into the 80's (30c). Now high's are down to a much more comfortable mid 70's (22c), although it still feels hot in the full sun.

There is lots to do. Eleanor had a great game of golf with Jeff today and is looking forward to her next golf lesson. Eleanor and Lynnette go for Yoga followed by pool aerobics several days a week.Julian On Wednesday we drove with Jeff and Jeff and Lynnette's HouseLynnette high up into the mountains just west of here to a touristy place called Julian where they used to mine gold but now there are ranches and they grow apples and sell delicious apple pies. We had a slice with cinnamon ice cream.  Julian is up at 4000' and is much cooler and damper than Borrego.

The big news is that Jeff and Lynnette have just purchased a house looking out on the golf course. That is it on the left. We are going to celebrate with them in the new house tonight.

They will be moving in on Friday and our stay here in this rental trailer ends on Sunday so we will move into their trailer for a few more days before heading home in the middle of next week.

John & Eleanor

Nov 17: Borrego Springs - sunrise at Font's Point.

Font's Point

DangerSunrise at Font's Point - Jeff and Lynnette's gift to us on Tuesday morning. (That is us in the middle of the picture). We were away at 5:30am for a half hour drive to this lovely spot accessible only by four wheel drive. I wouldn't want you to think all is peaches and cream here in Borrego Springs. We had to get up at 5am. The temperature at 6am was a mere 1c - shiver, colder than Vancouver (I've been watching the weather)  ;-) .

The picture above is actually a compilation, a panorama, a set of four overlapping pictures stitched together with a program called Hugin. I have been having a lot of fun with this program lately as you can tell. There is another point in the background - after I took this picture I hiked around to the other side and got a panorama from the other direction.

Font's Point

Steep cliffs is right!!! You can see Jeff and Lynnette's car on the far left in the picture. About the only thing we didn't get was a decent sunrise picture - but trust us, it really was quite nice with the Salton sea below.

Later that evening we enjoyed hot dogs and soup around the campfire here at our RV park and sang songs.

John & Eleanor.

Breakfast at Goodyear's

Flat tireHow does two (2 - count em) flat tires sound! Actually it was the same tire both times but the first repair didn't take properly. First time was about 100 miles south of Portland. On the side of the freeway.... off came the bikes, off came the bike rack, everything out of the back, ... etc. and install the wretched little spare tire that obviously hadn't been used since the car was purchased back in '98. But it worked. We limped into Albany about 30 miles down the road at 50mph (maximum recommended for that little tire). We had it fixed (temporarily as it turns out) at a Sears store in Albany which fortunately was open Flat tireon Sundays. Then we got all the way past Portland and found it was flat a second time. Yuck! A couple of nice young men helped us change it this time in a rest area. We limped to Chehalis, just before Centralia, on our temporary little spare tire again and crashed at a surprisingly nice little motel just as the sun was going down.

Monday morning we were up early as usual. A Les Schwab tire centre was only a minute away so I convinced Eleanor that we could have breakfast while we waited for the tires to be installed. But alas, it was not to be that easy. Les Schwab were not willing to install tires on the rear that didn't match the front ones (snow tires) and they didn't have the required tire in stock. They called the next nearest Les Schwab dealer but they didn't either.

So across the street we went to a Salton Seasmaller tire store operation. They didn't have a tire that would fit the car either  but were willing to fit a used tire which would get us back to Vancouver. But Eleanor balked at doing all that freeway driving on a used tire. So they directed us to a Goodyear Tire centre not too far away and off we went again. Fortunately Goodyear had tires in stock and was willing to install a couple of all-season tires. But a restaurant where we could have breakfast was not in sight so we had breakfast at the Casa CodyGoodyear Tire Store customer waiting area - peanut butter sandwiches and reasonably good coffee courtesy Goodyear. At 9am we were back on the freeway again.

Other than the flat tires our trip home was fairly uneventful. We saw some nice sights - of course we had to stop by the Salton Sea on the way. We had a very nice little place to stay in Palm Springs called "Casa Cody".

So we are back home on Galiano, safe and sound and catching up on our sleep.

We enjoyed the south but we didn't enjoy the driving much. Maybe next time we will fly. Slot Canyon

To finish off here are a couple of hiking pictures of note. The first shows the end of a lovely 1.5 mile hike to a place called Palm Canyon.

Palm CanyonThe second was a visit with the Jeff and Lynnette to a place called Slot Canyon. Sure wouldn't want to be in this spot during a rainstorm!!!.

Finally a panorama of the hiking area just minutes west of Borrego Springs.
Hiking area.

The Palm Canyon hike is in the distance on the right hand side of this image.

We are now looking forward to Christmas.

Best wishes to all.

John & Eleanor.

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Nov 22, 2010