Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year in the Desert - 12/31/14 - Yuma, AZ

Wednesday – December 31, 2014
Celebrating the New Year in the Desert
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA
Yuma, Arizona

Another first for us… celebrating New Year’s in the desert of Arizona. A clear sunny day with the temperature in the 60s… what’s not to like!

As is our tradition, our dinner menu for New Year’s eve consists of: broiled lobster tails and sautéed asparagus spears, followed by a desert of cheesecake. Only problem is… we did not do that this year! We were so full from munching on other delicacies earlier in the day; we decided to forego out traditional dinner and have it on New Year’s day instead.

We celebrated New Year’s eve with a DVD movie and were in bed by 10:00 p.m. Mountain Time. We figured at least we made it into the New Year on Eastern Time!

Sunset in the Desert

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dish Tailgater Antenna - 12/30/14 - Yuma, AZ

Tuesday – December 30, 2014
Dish Tailgater Antenna
Satellite Advantage
Quartzsite, Arizona

On Sunday, December 28, 2014, we lost our television service with Dish Satellite. When I turned on the television and the Dish ViP211K receiver, the receiver would perform a check switch routine through the Dish Tailgater antenna and within a minute or so the television would display the message: No Satellites Found – Error Code 151. I needed to determine if the problem was with the receiver or the antenna, so I contacted Dish customer service to find a Dish satellite service center in Yuma, Arizona. Dish directed me to American Satellite System inYuma, Arizona.

Since it was a Sunday and American Satellite was closed, I searched online for problems with the Dish Tailgater antenna. This search provided a wealth of information related to problems other owners of this antenna were having. I also discovered glowing reviews of how knowledgeable and helpful Satellite Advantage in Quartzsite, Arizona were in problem solving satellite antenna and receiver problems.

Monday morning I visited American Satellite System. I had the Dish ViP211K receiver and the Tailgater antenna with me. It was a wasted trip! The folks there offered me two solutions:

  1. Send one or both items back to Dish for replacement.
  2. Buy a new ViP211K receiver and/or Tailgater antenna from them.

Since my receiver and antenna were out of warranty, option 1 was not a viable option.

I was so disappointed with American Satellite and Dish for recommending them to me. If you are looking for someone to service your satellite receiver or antenna … Go Somewhere Else!

I called Satellite Advantage in Quartzsite, Arizona, while I was sitting in the parking lot at American Satellite. I talked to the owner, Paul Angerami, and explained my problem. He immediately recognized the problem and stated it is unique to the Tailgater antenna when using that antenna while dry camping. The fix requires them to re-download software onto the ViP211K receiver using one of their Dish antennas. The service charge for this fix is $15.00. Since Quartzsite is about 70 miles north of Yuma, I decided to visit them on Tuesday.

I arrived at Satellite Advantage on Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. Within 20 minutes they had the software downloaded onto my Dish ViP211K receiver. The receiver was functioning properly, as connected to one of their televisions and antennas. While I was waiting, the owner commented that starting in January, when the largest influx of snowbirds start to arrive, those RV’ers that have the Tailgater antenna will be lined up in his store with their receivers to get the software downloaded. For this reason, he discontinued carrying the Tailgater antenna and now carries the Pathway X1 and Pathway X2 antennas, manufactured by Winegard. These are purported to be a more robust antenna system for continuous dry camping.

I arrived back at the Imperial Dam BLM, LTVA, in Yuma, Arizona late in the afternoon. I connected the Tailgater antenna to the receiver then the receiver to the television. Turned the system on, and to my dismay, the television screen displayed the dreaded message: No Satellites Found. I am so upset with myself. I just drove 140 miles to get software downloaded onto my receiver and never gave a thought to ask them to connect my receiver to my Tailgater antenna to make sure the antenna is working properly. Another senior moment gets the better of me! I swear, I have to make notes for just about everything anymore. I just can’t rely on my memory the way I use to. Aggravating! Of course, just my luck, it’s the day before New Year’s eve. They will be closed on the 31st and January 1, 2015. I will have to wait until Friday, January 2nd before I can get my Dish satellite system running again. Fortunately, we have a large selection of DVD movies we can watch in the meantime.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.











Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas in the Desert - 12/25/14 - Yuma, AZ

Thursday – December 25, 2014
Christmas in the Desert
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA
Yuma, Arizona

This is our first time spending Christmas in the desert of Arizona. A clear sunny day with the temperature in the low 70s… what’s not to like!

We had baked ham; a sweet potato mixture with dark rum, brown sugar and walnuts; and a green bean mixture with bacon, onion, celery and mushroom soup. We had a delicious cheesecake for desert.

We spent a relaxing day, enjoying one another’s companionship, and thankful we are fortunate to be able to travel to warmer climates to escape the harsh winter weather in the Chicago area.

Sunset in the Desert

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wild Fire Erupts - 12/23/14 - Yuma, AZ

Tuesday – December 23, 2014
Wild Fire Erupts - Parade of Lights
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA
Yuma, Arizona

It was a beautiful sunny day, but quite windy with strong gusts of wind throughout the day and evening. The temperature was quite pleasant in the high 70s.

Late this afternoon, we noticed a large plume of smoke, about 3 miles north of our campground, very close to the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. With our binoculars, we could see it was a brush fire that was raging out of control. Firefighters from the Yuma Proving Ground had arrived on the scene, but the strong winds kept spreading the fire toward the southeast, faster than they could contain it. As nighttime approached, the fire lit up the night sky. The fire had erupted close to a wetland area and the firefighters were containing the fire to keep it from spreading north, over the Imperial Dam Road, onto the Yuma Proving Ground. Update: The fire was finally contained late into the evening on Christmas Eve.

At 6:00 p.m. the Parade of Lights Christmas parade commenced at the Imperial Dam BLM. The parade takes place every night, for five nights, through Christmas Eve. There are seven vehicles in the parade. Each vehicle is outfitted with strings of Christmas lights and rooftop displays powered by their 12-volt batteries. One SUV had two reindeer pulling a sled on its roof, another had a snowman on its roof, and another had a Christmas tree on its roof. They traveled in formation throughout the LTVA. It was quite a nice display of good cheer leading up to Christmas.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tamale Festival - 12/20/14 - Somerton, AZ

Saturday – December 20, 2014
Tamale Festival
Somerton, Arizona

We attended the 8th annual Somerton Tamale Festival this afternoon. This is a one-day festival that attracts over 30,000 people each year. It starts at 11:00 a.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m. The festival was already overflowing with people when we arrived at 12:30 p.m.

Somerton is located 13 miles southwest of Yuma and 12 miles north of the border with Mexico. The event is held in downtown Somerton. U.S. highway 95 runs through the center of this charming southwestern town. The highway was blocked off throughout the entire downtown area to accommodate this event.

A large, raised stage was installed on the north end. Local radio personalities were on the stage providing commentary and music.

On the south end, a section of the street was cleared to provide a dance area. A raised platform was installed for the dance instructors. A disc jockey was playing upbeat Latin music and two dance instructors were showing dance moves to a group of people dancing. We enjoyed watching a cute little girl dancing. She was probably about 5 years old and really did a good job of keeping time to the music.

Then there was a group of young boys and girls wearing blue wigs. Charming!

Miss Yuma and the Tamale Festival Queen were in attendance, greeting their subjects!

We purchased our tickets at a ticket booth. The tickets are $2.00 each or 12 for $20.00. The tamales cost one ticket each. With our tickets in hand, we begin our journey through the maze of 43 tamale vendors to sample six tamales for each of us. There were already several hundred visitors, patiently waiting in long lines to sample the many varieties of savory tamales.

  • Variety of Tamales Offered:
    Beef – plain, green chile, red chile
    Chicken – plain, green chile, red chile
    Pork – plain, green chile, red chile
    Shrimp with green chile
    Cheese with green chile
    Corn – plain or green chile and cheese
    Spinach with cheese
    Chocolate chip

We sampled the beef, chicken, pork (all with green chile), chocolate chip, pineapple and strawberry. All of them were delicious.

As we were departing the festival, a local radio personality was encouraging visitors to compete in the tamale-eating contest. We had no desire to watch a grotesque scene of people gorging themselves with tamales...  so we left.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Asian Buffet - 12/12/14 - Yuma, AZ

Friday – December 12, 2014
Asia Buffet
Yuma, Arizona

Another year passes and another birthday to celebrate: Sharon’s!

We both had a taste for sushi, so off we go to have lunch at the Asia Super Buffet, all-you-can-eat, restaurant. This restaurant is located on Pacific Avenue, south of U.S. highway 95, in Yuma, Arizona. We really enjoy these types of restaurants. The sushi is always freshly made and delicious. Then there are the several counters containing other savory, Asian prepared foods: a variety of dumplings, soups, egg rolls, lomein noodles, rice noodles, fried rice, chicken, pork, beef, seafood, salads, fruit, and deserts. And finally... the price is right! The total tab was $23.10 with the senior discount.

The Yuma International Airport is located about a mile south of the Asian Super Buffet. The airport shares space with a United States Marine Corps Air Station. We found a spot adjacent to the airport where we could watch the Marine Corp’s AV-8B II Harrier jet aircraft take-off and land. These are single-engine, ground attack aircraft that are capable of vertical takeoff and landing. Today, they were taking off like a normal jet, speeding like a bullet down the runway, do a fly-around and then land vertically. It was fascinating to see the jets hover a couple of hundred feet above the runway and then slowly descend vertically until touchdown on the runway.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Surveillance Blimps - 12/10/14 - Yuma, AZ

Wednesday – December 10, 2014
Border Patrol Blimps
Yuma, Arizona

Upon our arrival here at the Imperial Dam BLM, LTVA on November 18th, we were fascinated by daily sightings of a large, white, unmarked blimp that appeared in the same location and never moved. We speculated that it might be an experimental surveillance-type drone, operated by the U.S. Army Proving Ground. Since it was stationary, elevated several thousand feet in altitude, and always positioned in the same location north of the Imperial Dam BLM, we believed it had to be tethered to the ground. We marveled at the length of cable that would be required to tether a blimp to this altitude.

We subsequently learned, through wikipedia, these blimps are a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS). They are an American low-level surveillance system that uses aerostats (moored balloons) as radar platforms.

The aerostats are large fabric envelopes filled with helium, and can rise up to an altitude of 15,000 feet while tethered by a single cable. The largest lifts a 1000 kg payload to an operating altitude providing low-level, downward-looking radar coverage. The aerostat consists of four major parts or assemblies: the hull and fin, windscreen and radar platform, airborne power generator, and rigging and tether.

The hull of the aerostat contains two parts separated by a gas-tight fabric partition. The upper chamber is filled with helium and provides the aerostat's lifting capability. The lower chamber of the hull is a pressurized air compartment. The hull is constructed of a lightweight polyurethane-coated Tedlar fabric. An airborne engine drives the generator, supplied by a 100-gallon diesel fuel tank.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the aerostat sites were equipped with Lockheed Martin 420K aerostats. The 420K's envelope shape, fin design, and cable attachment points are further optimized for high aerodynamic stability and easy ground handling. While Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the 420K aerostats, the envelopes are built by ILC Dover.

As of 2004, all TARS sites except one were equipped with the 420K aerostats. The exception is Cudjoe Key, which uses two smaller, but otherwise similar, Lockheed Martin 275K blimps. One carries the L-88(V), a light-weight L-88 derivative, while the other is used to transmit the "TV Marti" TV program into Cuba.

Operators launch the aerostat from a large circular launch pad containing a mooring fixed or mobile system. The mooring systems contain a large winch with 25,000 feet of tether cable. Operational availability is generally limited only by the weather and routine maintenance downtime. The aerostats are stable in winds below 65 knots. Aerostat and equipment availability averages more than 98 percent system-wide.

For security and safety reasons, air space around aerostat sites is restricted for a radius of at least two to three statute miles and an altitude up to 15,000 feet .

The primary mission is to provide low-level radar surveillance along the southwest border of the United States and Mexico, the Straits of Florida and the Caribbean in support of federal agencies involved in the nation's drug interdiction program. The secondary mission is to provide North American Aerospace Defense Command with low-level surveillance coverage for air sovereignty in the Florida Straits. The aerostat radar data is available to NORAD and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The first aerostats were assigned to the United States Air Force in December 1980 at Cudjoe Key, Fla. During the 1980s, the U.S. Customs Service operated a network of aerostats to help counter illegal drug trafficking. Their first site was built at High Rock, Grand Bahamas Island, in 1984. The second site was built at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in 1986. Before 1992, three agencies operated the TARS network: the Air Force, U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Coast Guard. Congress in 1992 transferred management of the system to the Defense Department, with the Air Force as executive agent. The Budget Control Act of 2011 slashed funding for the Air Force, which tried to shut down the project. However, the Department of Homeland Security picked up the project and continues to fund its continuing operation.

Technical and Operational Data
Primary Function: Low-level, downward-looking radar; aircraft detection
Volume: 275,000 and 420,000 cubic feet
Tether Length: 25,000 feet
Payload Weight: 1,200-2,200 pounds
Maximum Detection Range: 200 nautical miles

Operational Sites:
Yuma, Arizona – U.S. Highway 95, Milepost 58
Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Deming, New Mexico
Eagle Pass, Texas
Marfa, Texas
Matagorda, Texas (currently in a cold-storage configuration)
Rio Grande City, Texas
Cudjoe Key, Florida
Lajas, Puerto Rico
Morgan City, Louisiana (currently in a cold-storage configuration.

On one of our visits to Quartzsite, Arizona we viewed the YUMA TARS, tethered, near mile marker 58 on U.S. highway 95. North of mile marker 58, near mile marker 76, all northbound traffic is diverted off U.S. highway 95 and routed through a border patrol checkpoint.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Das Bratwurst Haus - 12/09/14 - Yuma, AZ

Tuesday – December 09, 2014
Das Bratwurst Haus
Yuma, Arizona

Another year passes and another birthday to celebrate: Mine!

We had a taste for German food and had seen an advertisement for a German restaurant, Das Bratwurst Haus, in the Yuma, Arizona visitor magazine, so we decided to give it a try.

Das Bratwurst Haus offers a cozy atmosphere for its diners. There are two dining areas, each distinctly different from one another.

One dining area has a dark, highly polished, wood floor, with pictures of German castles and landscapes decorating the walls, and of course, the traditional display case containing a variety of German beer steins. It has quaint booth-type tables with plush cushions on the bench seats. It also has bar-type tables with high-backed chairs that seats a party of four. We chose this dining area.

The second dining area has a marble-type tile floor, with several large picnic tables. It is reminiscent of a German beer hall that one would see during Octoberfest in Germany. There is a beautiful photograph of a German Castle and Estate that covers one wall.

Sharon and I both had a pork schnitzel with sauerkraut and a cucumber salad as sides. The food was good, but I must admit my prejudice, being from the Chicago area, there is just no comparison to the quality and taste of the German cuisine prepared by German restaurants in Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Burro Encounter - 12/08/14 - Yuma, AZ

Monday – December 08, 2014
Wild Burro Encounters
Imperial Dam BLM
Yuma, Arizona

We had some unexpected visitors at our campsite the last two nights. On Sunday night, as the sun was setting, two adult wild burros ventured into our campsite, came right up to the door of our trailer, looked around, and then slowly wandered off to join up with three other burros at another campsite.

On Monday night, again as the sun was setting, four burros visited our campsite: two adults, each one with a juvenile. The adults are only about four feet high at the shoulder and the juveniles were about three feet high at the shoulder. The little ones were so full of energy; frolicking about and butting the hindquarters of their respective mother’s with their heads in their apparent attempts to secure some milk.

We believe the burros come out of the desert at night to drink water from the reservoir at the dam by Squaw Lake. The reservoir is near the South Mesa area where we are camped. There are wild burro trails throughout the desert in this area that lead to the reservoir.

We retired for the night after another amazing sunset here in the Arizona desert.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tarantula Encounter - 12/06/14 - Yuma, AZ

Saturday – December 06, 2014
Tarantula Encounter
Imperial Dam BLM
Yuma, Arizona

We are enjoying another sunny day with the temperature in the high seventies. We decided to take a short hike in the dessert this morning. We started out from our campsite in the South Mesa area and followed the trail to the Senator Wash area. At about 4.5 miles into our hike we decided to continue to the dam at Squaw Lake and take a paved road from there, back to South Mesa.

Pictures of Square Lake

At one point, we heard the sound of gravel being displaced behind us on the trail. It happened so fast, we were startled as a dog went running by at full speed. We soon discovered the dog belonged to a couple of senior citizens riding their mountain bikes on this very rugged trail. We later learned the dog is a terrier/border collie mix and very obedient and friendly. There were four riders all together and one of them, Terry from New Hampshire, was kind enough to tell us about additional trails in the area to hike.

At about 6 miles into our hike, we were walking side-by-side on the trail, Sharon suddenly let out a yell and at the same time scrambled forward on the trail. She had almost stepped on a huge tarantula spider crossing the trail. It paid no mind to us and continued on its journey to somewhere in the desert.

What started out as a short hike in the desert turned into a 10-mile hike on a somewhat circular route around the Imperial Dam BLM area. Upon our return to our campsite we treated ourselves to a well-deserved rest for the remainder of the day.

Pictures from the Senator Wash Reservoir Trail

A full moon appeared over the horizon to light up the desert tonight.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yuma, AZ: Interesting Facts - 12/03/14

Wednesday – December 03, 2014
Yuma – Interesting Facts
Yuma, Arizona

Yuma is located in Arizona’s southwest corner, sharing borders with Mexico and California.

Yuma is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the sunniest place on earth with 339 bright days a year (about 91 percent of all daytime hours) and less than 3 inches of rain annually.

Yuma is the driest and least humid city in the U.S. – but not the hottest!

Yuma (and all of Arizona) is in the Mountain time zone and does not observe daylight savings time. During the winter months, it’s an hour earlier across the Colorado River in California.

Yuma has been known as Colorado City, Arizona City and finally as Yuma by decree of the Territorial Legislature in 1873.

The Yumas were a combination of Indian tribes of the lower Colorado Region – the Quechans, Cocopahs and Mohaves.

Between 1850 and 1877 Yuma was a bustling river town. The Colorado River was navigable from the Gulf of California to the mouth of the Grand Canyon.

Over 65 movies have been filmed in or around Yuma since 1913 including Star Wars, Jarhead and Resident Evil: Extinction.

Yuma is Arizona’s 11th largest city with a population of 92,000, and the biggest population center outside metro Phoenix and Tucson.

Yuma’s largest industry is agriculture, followed by the military and tourism. With the arrival of sun-seeking snowbirds in the fall, Yuma’s population nearly doubles.

Yuma’s climate of sunshine, rich soil and water combine to produce more than 175 different crops – including more than 90 percent of the nation’s leafy greens from November through March.

Yuma’s ideal growing conditions promote the growth of towering Medjool date palms, producing a healthy harvest of up to 10 million pounds of dates a year. Yuma Medjools are shipped around the world, even to the Middle East!

And finally… Yuma folklore says there are several caches of gold, silver and treasure buried beneath the desert sands. They include millions of dollars of Nazi Germany war treasure, tons of silver and gold from the Spanish galleons the "Content" and the "Isabella Catolica", and missing crates of 1903 Winchester 30-30 carbines.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Yuma Proving Ground, AZ - 11/30/14

Sunday – November 30, 2014
Yuma Proving Ground
Yuma, Arizona

We just discovered that civilian visitors are allowed to enter the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. This is great news since it is only located 5 miles from our campground here at the Imperial Dam BLM, LTVA. At the Yuma Proving Ground we have access to free WiFi at the bowling center and grill. We had been traveling 25 miles to the library in Yuma to access free WiFi.

We visited the Yuma Proving Ground this afternoon. At the guard station, visitors are required to show the following documents:

  • Photo I.D. or Passport (each occupant in the vehicle must have one)
  • Proof of Automobile Insurance
  • Vehicle Registration

Civilian visitors have access to the base gas station, bowling center and grill, free movie theater and church. The gas station also fills propane bottles.

There is also a RV campground on the base for use by retired military veterans.

While we were touring the base we came upon this behemoth of a vehicle: The U.S. Army Overland Train.

The Overland Train was developed to transport equipment and supplies on both on-and-off-road terrains. The total train consisted of the Control Car, ten cargo cars, and two power generating cars. It was 565 feet in length. The vehicle is constructed primarily from aluminum with an initial cost of two million dollars. It can carry a payload of 150 tons at a speed up to 20 mph. It can travel a distance of 350 to 400 miles at an average speed of 5 mph.

In addition to the control cab, the control car contains living quarters that provide complete living, messing, and sanitary facilities for a crew of six men.

It was tested at the Yuma Proving Ground in 1962.

We finished off our tour of the base with a bacon-cheeseburger, followed by a dish of ice cream, at the grill in the bowling center.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Reaching The Summit - 11/28/14 - Yuma, AZ

Friday – November 28, 2014
Reaching The Summit
Imperial Dam BLM
Yuma, Arizona

We awoke to another beautiful, sunny day with the temperature forecast to reach the low eighties. We decided a hike in the desert is in order to walk off some of the calories we consumed on Thanksgiving.

There is a low mountain range we can see from our campsite here at the Imperial Dam BLM, LTVA. We set our hiking objective to reach the summit of one of those mountains.

There is a wild burro trail that we followed for about 1.5 miles that took us in the direction the mountains.

At that point, the trail ends at the edge of a field of boulders.

The landscape at Imperial Dam, including the mountain ranges, are filled with boulders of all sizes. We presume this is the result of volcanic activity from millions of years ago. We proceeded on, making our way gingerly through the field of boulders. One can only wonder if this vastness of rock-strewn landscape is what the surface of the Moon or Mars must look like.

After hiking another 2.5 miles we finally reached the base of the mountain we wanted to climb.

The side of the mountain was filled with boulders, so it was slow going up to the top. Reaching the summit was such a thrilling experience. The view of desert below was magnificent. We took some pictures and had a picnic lunch consisting of Fiber One energy bars, apple slices, orange slices and cashew and almond nuts.

We took a different route down the mountain. This route took us through seven ravines before we reach our campsite. Once again, we are confronted with traversing a rock-strewn obstacle course hiking down the mountain. It continues once we reached the base of the mountain. We reach the first ravine. The ravines are dry riverbeds carved out by the rains during the monsoon season that frequent the area in August and September each year. Some of the ravines have steep sides, so we hike their dry riverbeds looking for inclines that are relatively easy to climb to reach the next plateau.

At about the fifth ravine, we spotted a wild burro trail and followed that trail through the remaining plateaus and ravines. When we reached the riverbed of the seventh ravine, I spotted movement a short distance from us down the riverbed. It was two wild burros grazing on the green leaf branches of some trees that only seem to flourish within the riverbeds. The burros at first seemed startled by our presence then nonchalantly resumed their grazing.

A perfect ending to our hike!

We returned to our campsite completing a very enjoyable 8.10-mile hike, exploring the magnificence of the desert environment.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.