Sunday, January 29, 2023

Winter in Arizona

 Sometimes the best laid plans go awry - as has happened to us in our quest for a favorable climate for my asthma.  With hope of that a warmer, dry climate would help, we opted to leave the Oregon Coast and spend the winter near Yuma, AZ.  On the way we stopped in Mohave Valley, just north of Needles, CA and after spending a few days, decided that this was a better location than Yuma.  Just 20 miles south of Laughlin and closer to Bullhead City, we found extensive shopping and dining opportunities and of course, a whole lot of casinos!  In fact, the park we're staying is right next to a small but nice casino.  

We're at the appropriately named "Happy Together RV Park", an exceptionally well managed park with huge sites. 

Our site is 100' long and almost as wide, and although there's no grass, there are palm trees here and there.  It's a gated park and the owners provide an abundance of activities and services.  We've met new people, made good friends, and enjoyed ourselves...except that the dry climate is also very windy, contains a lot of dust and pollen. and has havoc with my asthma.  So after six weeks we've decided to move on to Tucson and try it there.  

But our stay in Mohave Valley was not completely without enjoyment.  Each Wednesday the park hosted a pot luck, sometimes catered, which gave us a chance to meet people and make new friends.  After the Oregon Coast, it was nice to visit a variety of restaurants, although we had trouble driving past Culver's without a stop for the "flavor of the day".  

We were only a few miles from the California and Nevada borders which played havoc with time on our watches and phones.  Just a 10 minute drive would take us into the Pacific time zone and we often wished we had a regular old analog watch to tell us what the time really was.  

Mohave Valley, Bullhead City, and Laughlin surprised us.  When we last visited the area ten or so years ago, the area was rundown and depressed.  Today there are new housing areas, upscale shopping, and beautiful city parks.  The casino area of Laughlin is strange; it looks like a mini Las Vegas but even now during the snowbird season when it's at its busiest, the streets are almost empty no matter the time of day

But still the casinos are fairly busy - although almost everyone is grey-haired and most have walked over from the huge RV park (740 spaces) across the street.  We like the fact that there was seldom a wait for any of the restaurants, including some of the most popular like "Bubba Gumps" and "Claim Jumpers".  

Our daughter and husband visited us, and looking for someplace new to them, we took a trip to Oatman.  We'd been before, at least 12 years ago was our first visit, and we were interested in seeing any changes.

Oatman is one of those "historic" western mining towns that has transformed itself into a tourist attraction.  Many of the original buildings remain and have been transformed into souvenir shops and a few restaurants.  But the big attraction is Burros.  No not the kind served at Mexican restaurants, but the four-legged kind. 

Burros and donkeys are the same animal, but they're not mules or jackasses.  Confused?  Burros, donkeys, and jackasses are the same animal (a jackass is always male, which my wife thinks makes perfect sense) but a mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse and is larger.  The burros were prized by gold miners; they could carry twice their own weight, weren't easily startled, and can live in just about any environment.  When the gold ran out, miners simply released them, and as a result there are hundreds roaming the desert southwest.

On our first visit there was no restriction posted on what to feed the burros.  Tourists, including us, arrived with carrots which quickly made you a burro center of attention.  On our second visit a few years later, we were stopped on the road a mile out of town by a burro standing in the middle of the road.  Once we stopped, he came over to the passenger window where Brenda promptly fed him a carrot.  After a few more, he wandered off and let us continue into town, where we were greeted by large signs reading "DO NOT FEED THE BURROS CARROTS!"  In fact, the only food allowed, compressed blocks of hay, had to be purchased from the merchants. Obviously, the mule we ran into could read the signs, and stationed himself outside of town where he could get carrots before tourists entered town.  We asked why no carrots, and were told that they contained too much sugar and the local burros were suffering from diabetes.  

Our visit was on a beautiful weekend day and the town was crowded with tourists
and off-road vehicles.  And burros.  Not as many as we've seen in the past, but small groups of three or four wandering around grudgingly accepting scratches, pets, and an occasional hay cube.  They're surprisingly docile, and refuse to be intimidated by traffic - they move when they feel like it, and then slowly.  

The terrain around Oatman is striking, with rugged mountains surrounding the town.  Throughout the town, historic buildings and signs tell the history of the mining days.

A pleasant surprise to us was the Oatman Hotel Restaurant and Saloon, built in 1902.  It was a busy weekend, and the interior was packed with patrons.  The menu was extensive and reasonable for such a popular tourist stop, and the service was remarkable considering the crowd.  The interior is decorated with dollar bills - on the walls, the ceilings, and every available surface.  Our server wasn't sure how much money was present, but she estimated it was well over a hundred thousand dollars, with some estimates as high as a half million!  

We're back in Tucson now, a town we're very familiar with and where we have friends to visit.  We'll be here for a while so check back and see what we've been doing!