Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nogales, AZ

Heading south on Arizona Highway 82 you end up in the community of Nogales. It is a neighbor to Nogales, Mexico.
One of the first things we noticed was the border fencing!
Although still on the U.S. side, there is a sense of security issues close to the border. The arched roofs in the picture are at the U.S. Customs port of entry. 
This is the port of entry going into Mexico. People can also park their cars and walk across.
The stores on the U.S. side close to the border have a feel of Mexico!
This is the border fencing in downtown Nogales, U.S. and Mexico!
The further you get away from the border, the businesses get more modern until you are on a business strip with all the top chain stores and restaurants.
Here is the Nogales, AZ high school! The stepped bench seating in the front is interesting! 
This is the Nogales, AZ public libary!
Houses in the area vary, of course, but there are some nice ones with a Spanish flair.
We stopped on the outskirts of the old downtown at Exquisito's for some authentic Mexican cuisine!
Jane had a bowl of soup (sopa) served with a bowl of crispy strips to use like crackers, along with shredded cheese and slices of avacado.
The rest of us had beef and chicken tacos with rice and beans. The tacos are totally meat inside and the shell crimped closed. The lettuce, cheese, and tomatos was served over the top. It was a different way of serving tacos, but excellent! The spices were interesting and I look forward to having authentic Mexican cuisine again.  Our short visit to Nogales, AZ made us realize it would probably be advantageous to know Spanish if living there.

Patagonia, AZ

Thanks to our r.v. park neighbors and now friends, Dan and Jane from Minnesota, we got one more adventure in before leaving southern Arizona! They took us on a nice afternoon trip down Highway 82 through the artsy and historic community of Patagonia, a spin through Patagonia Lake State Park, and a drive around Nogales on the U.S. side.  I've divided the trip into two posts to facilitate people searching for information on the Internet about these locations.  All the pictures posted are from a Google search and not my own.
Patagonia is a cute little blip in the road built around this historic train depot, which now serves as the community municipal courts. Patagonia was a silver and lead mining community in the late 1800s.
On one side of the historic train station runs Highway 82 and on the other side is a cute strip with a hotel, restaurant, gift and coffee shop.
The local saloon even had an artsy look!
Several historic buildings in the community had new functions!
Just outside of town is Patagonia Lake State Park. Check out the desert view!
It's a pretty park with a nice campground! Water to play in is always a treat in a desert environment!
The park has a nice beach with a roped off swimming area!
There is a marina with kayak, rowboat, and pontoon boat rentals! Check out the attractive arched walking bridge in the background!
The lake is much larger than it appears from the beach and marina area. Patagonia Lake State Park looks like a great place to be on a hot Arizona day!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Westward Ho

We leave Huachuca City, AZ on February 27th for what we are calling our Westward Ho journey (noted in light green). It is a different sort of traveling than we have done in the past, as it entails lots of brief stopovers, which as seasoned travelers know can get expensive in a hurry! We're heading out into all new territory a lot of which is quite desolate. With a lot of Internet research we've quelled our fears of the unknown and the cost of the trip. Here is how we went about planning such an extensive and somewhat scary trip! We first roughed out a route to all the things we hope to do between February and October. We then calmed ourselves by acknowledging that we weren't on a time schedule and didn't have to get get to any particular place. We might just go to our first stop and decide to stay there! That's the beauty of full time rving! Once an approximate route was set, it was time to research the stops along the way. I like to do a Yahoo image search of communities we'll be staying in and places of interest. There is a comfort in gaining familiarity with what we will encounter. I also do a quick wikipedia check of the communities, so as to have an idea of their size and other facts of interest. I love the website, RV Park Reviews, for getting an overview of r.v. parks within and near the communities. If confronted with a lot of parks to choose from, I learned that starting with their rates can save a lot of time searching through their amenities to later find out the rates are well above what you are willing to pay.  I keep index cards for the r.v. parks we might choose to stay in, as well as, the ones we crossed off as choices so that once we are in the community we won't have to mentally question whether we checked out parks we see.  We'll have the information readily on hand.  We don't reserve r.v. parks ahead, as we like to see what we'll be staying in, especially if it's long term!  Touring the national parks with a travel companion that is age 62+ and qualifies for a senior park pass is great, as the national parks and monuments entrance fees are waived per car load and in the case of per person fees gets the pass holder and 3 more people into the park free!  The camping fees within the parks that would normally be $12.00 are only $6.00!!! So much for the rumor of how expensive it is to tour the national parks in California! Since we plan to stay a month in Needles, CA, we only need to plan our trip to that point. Once we're settled in, we'll research the next leg of the journey. We have done our homework and will be on our way soon with some comfortable knowledge of what to expect and excitement in our hearts!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Arizona Border Patrol

We had a great presentation given by two border patrol officers from the Naco station! It was informative, but also a depressing look into a darker side of life. I will be recounting some of the information given from memory and hopefully with more accuracy than not! I learned that we are in the border patrol's Tucson Sector. As Americans full of a sense of freedom, it came as a bit of a shock to our psyches to think of being in a patrolled sector while at home in the U.S.A.!
We are staying at Tombstone Territories R.V. Park, which is eight mile east on highway 82 between Huachuca City and Tombstone, AZ. We are located at least 60 miles from the border of Mexico! The yellow square is our approximate location. The orange squares are approximate locations of U.S. Customs/Border Patrol checkpoints on the highways in our vicinity. Check points are naturally located along the U.S./Mexico border at points of entry, but are also located 60-75 miles into the U.S. all across Arizona. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that southern Arizona has 11 checkpoints located away from the border. This has been a point of contention for not only the residents of southern Arizona, but retirees Wintering in Arizona. There has been an outcry to keep border patrol checkpoints on the borders. The questioning at border checkpoints that are away from the border has been so offensive to some American's sense of freedom that they are choosing to no longer Winter in southern Arizona and are spending their dollars elsewhere! Roy and I have already discussed not returning to areas of Arizona with an interior U.S. checkpoint present.    
Highway 82 is very active with border patrol trucks. They will be sitting facing the road and we presume they are monitoring something such as familiarity of vehicle traffic.  
They are also seen cruising the ATV trails along barb wire fenced desert areas. I asked if the trails and fencing were established by border patrol and was told that they weren't.
An observation blimp floats above the community of Sierra Vista. We were told that it scans for illegal aircraft coming over the mountains from Mexico. The picture shown is from the Internet and the community was unidentified. 
We occasionally see low flying drones over the desert.
There are also helicopters flying low, as if searching.
Horses are utilized, but we haven't seen them. Officers use hunting techniques to track illegal aliens much like any type of hunting. They watch for footprints, paths, broken branches, trodden plants, and anything left along the way.
ATV's are used. There are thousands of miles of ATV trails reported to be in the area. Some areas are so remote that officers take one week shifts staying in camps, so as to eliminate the commute time. Officers often work alone with back-up as far as 30 miles away. The Tucson Sector has had 4 officers killed in the last 18 years.
We were told that much of the border patrol's activities are at night. They have infrared binoculars that can spot images 5 miles away! They watch for straight line movement as animals tend to meander. Groups as large as of 30-50 illegal aliens have been apprehended traversing the desert!
They are reported to often times be relieved at having been rescued and to ask if a search can be made for loved ones that have collapsed along the way from dehydration, lack of nourishment, physical exhaustion, and the extreme cold or heat! It is a sad fact that the individuals hired to guide them from Mexico into the U.S. will lie to the people about the distance, as their only concern is collecting the money! We were told there were even illegal aliens being held hostage in the U.S. by their guides for more money than the original arrangement called for. Guides given money to transport children won't always take them to the predetermined destination, but will sell them for even more profit! There are Mexican bandits that will rob and rape their own people as they attempt the desert crossing into the U.S.! There are drug cartels that rule the Mexican border that say when and where aliens can make their crossings, as they don't want attention called to the areas of their drug operations. It's all a very sad and ugly side of life in the southwestern deserts!
Some Americans in the southwest feeling both a fear and compassion for desperate humans approaching them for supplies will leave jugs of water and food outside their home for the taking! It's an uneasy feeling that goes beyond the feel of desperate people creeping around at night, but a chance encounter as they bed down in rural areas for the day. There is also a wariness of a chance drug related encounter. We occasionally see signs posted in rural areas by border patrol warning the public to be aware of their surroundings and a contact number to report suspicious activity. These aren't feelings that one generally associates with rural living in other parts of the country!
Here is a statistics chart for the Tucson Sector regarding illegal alien apprehensions, deaths, and rescues from 2010-August 2013. The presenting border patrol officers said that prior to the improved border fencing that has come about in the last 5 years, 1,000 illegal aliens were being apprehended on each shift of a 3 shift day! They had no choice but to just send them back to Mexico, as there weren't enough hours in the day to do the 2 hours of paperwork per capture required! 
Roy and I find the thought of northbound trips from our current location requiring a checkpoint clearance oppressive. We have only been through the larger checkpoint on highway 90 between Sierra Vista and Benson once. There is the feel that you want to present yourself in a way that won't cause you to be hassled for some unknown reason. We were traveling with another couple and I leaned forward from the backseat to look out the window at the beautiful but intense German Shepherd an officer off to the side was holding. As I did so I quickly found that wasn't a good thing to do! The officer tensed, the dog alerted, and I saw the officer's hand drop to his weapon! The check point in the picture is from the Internet and the location is not known. The canopy style checkpoint is similar to the one on highway 90 north out of Sierra Vista.  
There is another checkpoint that can be seen from the intersection of highway 82 and highway 80, just north of the intersection on highway 80. Highway 80 going south from the intersection is the route taken when going to Tombstone. We haven't been through the checkpoint, but see it every time we go into Tombstone. One woman at the presentation asked what would happen if an officer asked to search her vehicle trunk and she refused. We were told that the checkpoints are set-up with x-ray equipment and density detecting machines that they have the right to use without a search warrant. The drug dogs are trained to detect as many as 100 substances.

With marijuana getting harder for drug cartels to bring into the U.S., there is more of it being grown in the national forests! There are also more methamphetamines being brought into the U.S., as a large quantity of it fits in a fairly small box. The drug dogs can detect it.

As stated earlier, it's a difficult concept as an American to think of being in a patrolled sector, but in fact, the whole United States is divided into sectors! In our focus on illegal aliens and drug smuggling along the Mexico border it's easy to forget that the government is also protecting our borders from terrorists. Going about our lives with the freedoms we have it is easy not to contemplate the logistics of people trying to invade the United States and that if one border is weak in it's security that illegal aliens from any country as well as drug smugglers can enter from a border other than the one adjoining their country! I'm glad I attended the presentation, even if I've become a little wiser and a bit sadder for my increased knowledge of a darker side of life.