Sunset and Scenery.

The Gumbo’s first stop after leaving Mesa was just 60 miles Northeast of Phoenix – a BLM campsite near the town of Congress called “Ghost Town Road”. It was there that Duwayne and Darla Jean met up with their good buddies from Port Townsend, Beau, Blanche and Yella Dawg. These folk had been traveling for a little over a week in their Escape trailer and had visited places the Gumbos had seen (like Joshua Tree and Quartzsite).

This campsite was nestled in amongst a bunch of hills that, with partially cloudy conditions, created great opportunities for great sunset photograhy.

Beau setting up a shot.

Blanche attempting to get a shot of Yella Dawg at sunset.

Darla Jean and Princess overseeing the proceedings.

The happy campers also took the opportunity to visit the campsite’s main “attraction”: The Congress Cemetery.

Except for the distraction of some very annoying (and loud) neighbors (with too many dogs), the Gumbos had a great time here, catching up with all the news of the Northwest.

Darla Jean and Blanche enjoying a gabfest.

With the weather threatening to turn wet and windy for a couple of days, the travelers decided to visit the Escapees RV park in Congress. This allowed Darla Jean and Blanche to do some provisioning in nearby Wickenburg and for Duwayne to recover from some sort of “bug” he had acquired. Laundry, showers and TV watching were also accomplished.

Yeesh! An RV Park!

And then it was off toward “Lost Wages”! The two RVs headed East to Lake Mead where they found a spot that was both beautiful and a little hairy getting into. The drive from the highway to the campsite (about 3 miles) was on some spectacularly scenic and spectaculary bumpy, hilly road. But what was found at the bottom was a beautiful lakeside campground.

The sites weren’t very level and required some “construction work” to get a proper angle.

Three days were spent at this spectacular spot – the first two were rather windy but Day 3 was WONDERFUL!

Next up: Death Valley (gotta love the sound of THAT!)

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game!!

After the “interesting” trip from Tucson to Phoenix, the Gumbos were ready to spend a relaxing week at Mesa Spirit RV Park in Mesa, Arizona while they attended spring training games and enjoyed the company of their grandson Calder.

The RV resort was just one of many located in the area and all of them appeared to cater to the 55+ year old retiree. This facility featured stuff like 2 heated pools, 4 hot tubs, shuffleboard and pickleball courts, mini golf and scheduled activities like square dancing, bingo and water aerobics. You can imagine how excited Calder was to hang out with all these elderly RV-ers! On the other hand (or paw), Princess was ecstatic – just asphalt and gravel to walk on (no stickers!).

The first three days in Mesa were spent attending spring training games. Luckily, the first game was located at Hohokam Stadium, which was just 5 miles from the RV Park. Duwayne and Calder went there to watch the Oakland A’s play the Texas Rangers.

They got to see the legendary Bartolo Colon on the mound and Calder got some selfies.

The next two games were located at the Peoria Sports Complex which was, unfortunately, located over an hour away (during rush hour) from the RV Park.

But it was worth the drive to see the Mariners battle the A’s and the Giants in a beautiful setting. Although the M’s lost both games, Calder, Duwayne and Darla Jean got to sit on the lawn in the comfortable evening temperatures and enjoy the games.

After completing their spring training mission, the Gumbos spent a lot of time lazing around the pool (helping Calder to defrost after the long Northwest winter).

They also took a day trip to the nearby Superstition Mountains to visit the Goldfield Ghost Town (an old gold mining town that’s been turned into a tourist attraction. There was lotsa cool old mining equipment and a really nice model train exhibit that was big on detail.

Goldfield also offered some great walks amongst the Saguaro and Cholla cactus and some wonderful views of the Superstition Mountains.

Calder was not too excited to see this sign.

The visit to Goldfield was completed with a zipline ride!

While Calder and Darla Jean flew through the air, Duwayne (who’s not too fond of heights) and Princess wandered through town.

The final couple days in Mesa were spent taking care of some maintenance issues. Number one was to get Princess groomed. The first attempt was at the Mesa PetSmart. That didn’t work so well because, after about an hour after dropping her off, Darla Jean was called by the store to say that Princess was too “wound up” (she was trying to bite the groomer and was pooping on the grooming table!) and that she would need to be picked up. So Duwayne and Darla Jean bought some trimmers and attempted the job themselves. After some bit fingers and some scratched arms and legs (Duwayne’s), Princess is now a punk rock dog.



After (don’t look too close).

Other “maintenance” items included giving Gumbo a good wash, stocking up the larder for the final 3 weeks of travel, doing laundry and installing a repacement cell booster antenna.

When the work was done, Duwayne, Darla Jean and Calder spent the remaing time in the pool and sitting by the fire.

Next: Calder heads back to the Northwest at 500mph. The Gumbos head back at 60mph.



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U Insane Bolt!!

The Gumbos pulled up stakes in Tucson on March 5 and prepared for a leisurely 2 hour drive to Phoenix where they were to meet their grandson Calder later in the day. Unfortunately, that leisurely drive didn’t turn out as planned.

As Duwayne and Darla Jean approached the on-ramp to I-10 (the road to Phoenix), a driver pulled along side and yelled “Your tires are smoking and may be on fire!!”. Yikes! Not what the Gumbos wanted to hear. Luckily, their was a pull-off on the side of the road (one that looked like it was a bus stop but not currently used as one). The Gumbos pulled in and checked out what was going on.

Their initial thought was that the trailer brakes had locked up and were causing the tires to drag on the road. But, no. That was NOT the issue. What had happened was the U-bolts that hold one of the axles to the leaf springs on the 5th wheel had failed. As you can see in the photo below, there are two U-bolts on each axle that secure it to the leaf spring (and Gumbo has two axles, supporting two tires on each side of the rig).

What happened in the Gumbo’s case is that ONE of these U-bolts had apparently fallen off. And the other one was dangling by just one nut. What that meant was that the axle that was being attached to the leaf spring moved forward and caused that tire to rub against the tire next to it (causing the smoke). Because Duwayne and his buddy Beau had replaced all the leaf springs last year, Duwayne found it easy to diagnose the problem. But the bigger issue was that he had no replacement U-bolts.

So, Duwayne and Darla Jean got on their phones and started searching for replacements. Duwayne drove to an AutoZone (sorta like Napa or Oreilly) and came up short. Then he drove around nearby auto repair shops but found that most of the employees only spoke Spanish (as did their customers). Meanwhile, Darla Jean called Camping World (one of the nation’s largest suppliers of RV equipment). They couldn’t help with the part but referred her to a nearby RV wheel and equipment supplier. BINGO! They had the part. Duwayne drove and picked up two new U-bolts and quickly drove back to do the installation.

After about 2 1/2 hours, the Gumbos were back on the road! Not quite the leisurely drive to Phoenix that they had envisioned! Anyhow, they made it in time to pick up Calder! Now for a week of Mariners Spring Training and lazing by the pool!

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But Wait! A Bit More Tucson.

The Gumbos took advantage of their short 3-day return visit to Tucson to check out some of the sights. First stop was Tiny’s Tavern (a chance for Duwayne and Darla Jean to fill their tummies with some good ol’ greasy American food). This is a cash-only locals-sorta pub that has great hamburgers and seafood.

The next day was spent with long-time sailing aquaintances, Debbie and Al Farner (from the sailing vessel “Different Worlds”. The Gumbos first met Debbie and Al during their first sailing trip in Mexico and then met up with them again in Australia (where “Gumbo Ya-Ya” and “Different Worlds” shared the same transport vessel back to Mexico). Debbie and Al live (when not traveling in their 5th wheel) in Tucson – so they took Duwayne and Darla Jean to the annual “4th Avenue Street Fair” in downtown Tucson. Lotsa artisan booths, music and good food!

Then, after a good night’s sleep (and a few well-deserved belches!), the Gumbos headed to the Pima Air and Space Museum. Wow! What a great place! There are about 5 hangers with tons of planes and equipment displayed and then acres and acres of classic planes that you can walk around and touch.

World’s smallest plane.

World’s UGLIEST plane!

SR-71 Blackbird!

World’s weirdest looking plane.

A big plane and a Shi-Tzu.

A B-29 (the kind of plane that dropped the A-bomb.

And the place where the A-bombed was stored.

Darla Jean and Princess in a cockpit looking for where to drop the poop-bag (not the A-bomb!)

A Huey – like they flew in ‘Nam.

After spending quite a few hours at this museum, the Gumbos headed back to their campsite for one more evening of relaxation before heading to Phoenix.


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¡Hasta La Vista, Mexico!

The Gumbos spent their last week in San Carlos, Mexico enjoying the beaches, the food and the overall ambience of this great town. Every late morning, before the afternoon breezes picked up, Duwayne, Darla Jean and Princess would wander down to a nearby beach, set up their awesome Seahawks beach chairs (thank you, Karl and Leslie!) and watch the pelicans dive, the dolphins jump and the waves splash at their feet.

Then, in the evenings, they would check out different San Carlos and Guaymas restaurants for some cheap and delicious Mexican food. And, oftentimes, these dinners were accompanied by beautiful sunsets viewed right from their table.

Duwayne and Darla Jean also spent some time wandering around, looking at the native plants, either near the beach or at small housing developments near the trailer park.

But, alas, all things must come to an end and, since their Mexican car insurance was about to expire and because they needed to meet their grandson Calder in Phoenix for spring training, the Gumbos had to hitch up and head North.

So, on March 1, they made the 5 1/2 hour drive to the border crossing at Nogales. The drive, itself, aside from the constant detours (due to a huge Mexican highway construction project) was uneventful. The fun began as the Gumbos neared the border. The first thing they had to do was to turn in the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) that they had gotten for the 5th wheel when they entered Mexico. They pulled off at a sign indicating that foreign vehicles were to return their paperwork at this location and, when their turn came, a young man asked to see their paperwork. The Gumbos were prepared and handed over the necessary documents. Then the official proceeded to whip out a camera and walk around the truck and 5th wheel taking photos. He stopped at a location where the placard showing the rig’s VIN number was and looked confused. He then came and got Duwayne and showed him that the placard had bleached out from the sun and was no longer readable. He called his boss on the phone and the boss said that they MUST have a photo of the VIN and to look inside the rig for another possible placard. No placard was found. The boss, when notified, said they MUST have a photo. Duwayne produced a copy of the vehicle’s registration (showing the VIN) but that was not deemed acceptable. And so, an hour was spent with multiple officials searching the rig, to no avail. Finally, the boss relented and said that the Gumbos could be on their way. Sheesh!!!

Next stop was the U.S. inspection point at the border. The Gumbos had been warned not to get their during rush hour and, even with the delay at the vehicle checkpoint, they still arrived by 2:30pm. Their was a HUGE backup, with cars, trucks, busses and RVs all merging into different lanes with no apparent order to the proceedings.

Just as the Gumbos seemed to be nearing the entrance, an official indicated that The Dude and Gumbo were in the wrong lane for RVs and needed to move into the lane to the right of the concrete barrier you see in the photo above. FUN!!! Luckily, there was a small break in the barrier and, with some major jockying (with the trucks tires going up over a concrete curb and almost running over some cactus and with impatient drivers in both lanes causing havoc), the Gumbos were able to get into the proper lane.

Duwayne and Darla Jean had been advised that it was not legal to bring any produce, fruit or meat back into the U.S. so they had thrown what they had left away before leaving San Carlos. The inspector asked the Gumbos if they had anything to declare and was told that only a bottle of Tequila and a box of wine was being imported. Duwayne asked if the cheese that was onboard was okay and the official said “Cheese is fine . . . unless you’re lactose intolerant!”.

After a brief search of the interior, the rig, truck and the Gumbos were on there way, back in the U.S.A. They then drove another 90 minutes North to the BLM site in Southwest Tucson, where they had stayed before leaving for Mexico. They found a choice spot and, after setting up camp and having a quick meal, they collapsed into bed (but not without first getting a nice glimpse of the “Worm Moon”).

Apologies for the low-res iPhone photo.

Next stop: Mesa, Arizona, where the Gumbos are headed to meet Calder for a week of Mariner’s Spring Training!

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A Day (or two) in the Life . . .

As the Gumbos read about snowfall and record cold temperatures in the Northwest, they are thankful to be enjoying the comforts of the San Carlos/Guaymas area of Mexico. Life is pretty good in the RV park – what with the “shrimp lady” stopping by each morning, the “water guy” delivering 5-gallon jugs of purified water to the Gumbo’s doorstep, the “propane guy” filling containers onsite and the CHEAP grocery store only a short bike ride away.

Duwayne and Darla Jean have been spending their “busy” days driving around the area and checking out some of the activities. Ray and Maria invited them to attend the Carnival parade in Guaymas (“Carnival” is the Mexican equivalent of Mardis Gras and happens at a few select cities – Mazatlan, Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Guaymas among them). Carnival lasts for a week in Guaymas and there’s a parade every day. And these parades are LONG and LOUD!! It seems that each float is accompanied by a truck with a sound system that competes to be the loudest.

Darla Jean and Ray in front of Maria and Ray’s house in Guaymas.

The streets in Guaymas during Carnival.

On another day, Duwayne and Darla Jean took a trip into Guaymas to check out the municipal mercado (public market). Downtown Guaymas is NOT a big pickup truck friendly environment so they parked down by the industrial harbor and walked to the mercado.

Stray dogs are always a feature in Mexico.

And Duwayne always enjoys looking at the meat in the mercado!

On another day, the Gumbos traveled to the neighboring city of Empalme for their weekly Sunday flea market. Quite a scene! Hundreds of booths line the closed-off streets and EVERYTHING is for sale – clothes, produce, meat, appliances, tools and lotsa used junk.

You can even get a haircut!

When not spending time going on field trips, the Gumbos spend most of their afternoons at the beach. The weather in San Carlos has been perfect – mid 70’s, light winds and plenty of sunshine.

And, in the evenings, Duwayne and Darla Jean find time to sample some of San Carlos’s restaurants (where dinner for two with beer and wine typically costs about $25).

Dinner with Roger and Karen (s/v Meridian) and Ned and Carla Jean (s/v Moonshadow) at The Soggy Peso.

The Soggy Peso offers great sunset views.

The Gumbos have about 10 more days of Mexican living before heading back North to meet grandson Calder for Mariners Spring Training in Phoenix. But they’re gonna miss this relaxing (and inexpensive) lifestyle!

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Shrimp, Tequila and the Sea of Cortez

Before dawn, on February 1, the Gumbos departed the Nogales Home Depot parking lot and, after a brief stop at Starbucks, headed for the border. They wanted to leave early because its a fairly long, stressful drive from the border to San Carlos and, what with 3 other RVs in the parking lot, all headed for the same RV park, Duwayne and Darla Jean wanted to get there before the check-in process got too congested.

The Gumbos cleared the first border-crossing hurdle when they were asked if they had anything to declare (at customs). After answering “no”, they were waved on but were stopped about 200 yards further by an official who wanted to take a closer look. After pointing his flashlight into the truck and 5th wheel, he also waved them through and the Gumbos were on there way! (Interestingly, after all the trouble that was spent getting proper pet clearance papers, no mention was even made concerning Precious).

At Kilometer 21, there is another stop where visitors must apply for (and pay for) their visas. This took a little longer than expected because the Gumbos were also required to purchase a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for the 5th wheel. This was not expected as reports said that TIPS weren’t necessary in the “Free Zone” (that area extending from Nogales to San Carlos and Guaymas). However, the $60 permit is good for 10 years so it may come in handy in the future.

The trip from Nogales to San Carlos is about 233 miles and takes a little over 5.5 hours. It passes through the fairly large town of Hermosillo where you must drive your truck and 5th wheel through a congested town with lots of “topes” (speed bumps). Some of the topes are marked with signs, others aren’t and the Gumbos managed to hit an unmarked one while traveling at about 40mph. Not a good feeling and when they pulled over to inspect the damage, they found cupboards open with food all over the floor.

What you see driving next to you in Hermosillo.

There is also a LOT of construction going on between Nogales and San Carlos with endless detours as the highway appears to be enlarged from 2 lanes to 4. This meant for slow driving conditions and a fair amount of stress. But, by 1pm, the Gumbos arrived at Totonaka RV Park in San Carlos. This would be the first time they had access to power, water, sewage and cable TV since leaving Seattle in November.

After getting settled, Duwayne and Darla Jean were greeted by quite a few friends from the Northwest. First, there was Ned and Carla Jean (really, Carla Jean!) whom the Gumbos knew from their sailing cruise in Mexico back in 1995. Ned and Carla Jean are currently traveling in their trailer and are also parked at Totonaka. Then there was Jim and Crissie, also fellow boaters who had their boat moored in San Carlos as they prepared to sail across the Sea to Puerto Escondido on the Baja Peninsula. And finally, there was Ray and his new bride Maria. Ray is also a fellow cruising friend who has his boat stored in San Carlos and lives in Guaymas. The entire crowd went out for shrimp tacos and pizza!

It turns out that Totonaka RV Park is, for the most part, a very nice place to spend a month in Mexico. It is centrally located and the beach is right across the street, with other VERY scenic beaches just a short drive away. There’s a pool, a pickle ball court and dog runs for the pooches. The place is about 90% filled with RVs from British Columbia.

There was even a place set up for all the Americans to watch the Super Bowl!

The only negatives about the RV park are:

There are little stickers all over the ground that manage to attach themselves to Precious – and they’re a pain to remove!

Water pressure is almost non-existant, it takes at least 30 minutes to fill the tank.

The promised 5 U.S. cable channels turns about to be 1 (and sometimes 2) fuzzy channels.

But, what the heck – the Gumbos are in MEXICO!

The beach in front of the RV park.

A beach further up the road (by the way, the mountain on the left is called “Goat’s Tits”.

Another beach.

Duwayne has been taking advantage of the nice temperatures and flat terrain to do some morning bicycle trips. He has found some places that appear to be free camping zones and also some beautiful estuaries with nice wildlife.

Unfortunately, Mexicans have not yet embraced the idea of a clean environment. Trash is routinely deposited just about anywhere.

The first week in San Carlos was spent visiting the marina, spending time at the beach, eating cheap shrimp ($12 for a kilo of jumbo prawns), drinking cheap tequila ($9 for a fifth of GOOD Cuervo – not that gold crap that is sold at home) having dinner out with old friends and, of course, practicing drums.

Marina Seca – where Jim and Crissie moored their boat.

Beach time with Ned and Carla Jean.

Digging The Dude out of the sand on the way to the beach!

Dinner out with Ray and Maria.

  • A technical note. Two things you may have noticed: 1) the photos included here are a little lower-res than usual. That’s because the lens on the Canon DSLR has started to malfunction and will no longer focus properly. So, all photos are now taken with iPhones. And, 2) The map at the right that shows the Gumbos’ current location is rarely accurate. That’s because the “widget” that this blog application uses to display map info insists that a physical street address be entered. Since the Gumbos rarely stay where there’s an address, map info can’t be entered. And, for some reason, even though the Gumbos ARE currently at a physical address, the application doesn’t seem to recognize MEXICAN addresses.
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