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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wild Burros - 11/27/14 - Yuma, AZ

Thursday – November 27, 2014
Wild Burrows
Imperial Dam BLM
Yuma, Arizona

We are becoming quite accustomed to the wonderful weather here in the southwestern desert region of Arizona. Each day greets us with a clear, sunny sky. The daytime temperatures have ranged from the low to high seventies and the nighttime temperatures have generally been in the low fifties.

Hiking in the desert is filled with intriguing discoveries. The desert at first glance looks lifeless. All we initially see is miles and miles of rock-strewn terrain, with very sparse vegetation. On closer inspection, we see burrow holes that have been dug by the kangaroo rat (which only comes out at night). We spot several species of birds and lizards darting about. We spot hoof prints of wild burros on the narrow trails they make as they wander through the desert.

We have heard wild burros braying at night near our campsite. We have seen their hoof prints and droppings on several trails in the desert, but we have not seen any… until today. Off in the distance from our campsite, stood a solitary burro. We were surprised to see how small they are; probably about four feet high and five feet in length. It stayed in one spot all afternoon before it wandered off at sunset.

We celebrated our first Thanksgiving while camping in our Casita Trailer. We enjoyed a 3-pound boneless turkey that I roasted in our toaster oven. Our sides consisted of: turkey stuffing; a sweet potato mixture with rum, brown sugar and walnuts; a green bean mixture with bacon, onion and mushroom soup; and cream corn. We finished our meal off with a piece of pumpkin pie with a topping of whipping cream.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Yuma Proving Ground, AZ - 11/24/14

Monday – November 24, 2014
Yuma Proving Ground
Yuma, Arizona

The U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground is located within five miles of our campsite at the Imperial Dam, BLM, LTVA. Near the entrance to the Yuma Proving Ground there is an exhibit area that is open to the public. The exhibit area has several types of tanks, artillery guns and rockets that were used in WW II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. There are information displays that provide some history about the Yuma Proving Ground. The following information is provided from these information displays.

A brief history of the Yuma Proving Ground…

Camp Laguna was the first of the Arizona camps established as the Desert Training Center of World War II, and became the California – Arizona Maneuver Area. With the campaign in North Africa all but over, the training focus shifted to preparing Corps – sized units for future battles by immersing them into a simulated theater of war. From March 1943 to March 1944, Camp Laguna would be the temporary home to the 8th, 79th, and the 80th Infantry Divisions, as those units participated in the rigorous training afforded in the Desert Southwest.

1946 saw many studies conducted to review the lessons learned from the Nation’s wartime experience. Operations during the war were thoroughly reviewed to determine what had worked well, and what had not worked. Important material developments and the establishment of standards were crucial elements to the U.S. war-time success. It was noted that testing in the natural environmental settings of the desert and the arctic had been of great benefit, and had helped to reduce development time. The Korean War once again indicated the need for our Army to be ready to fight our Nation’s battles anywhere in the world. The answers to related to questions of material readiness would best be derived from Test and Evaluation. The Army reactivated the former Yuma Test Branch in April 1951 as the "Yuma Test Station," a Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) Installation.

Testing in the natural environments requires a "laboratory in the field." An accelerated program of organization, preparation and construction was initiated to permit immediate use of the test facilities. These facilities would be used to conduct tests in an environmental situation approximating conditions of actual use under controls comparable to those governing good laboratory practice.

The Ordnance Test Activity was the largest and most active of the test activities, while testers from the Corps of Engineers, Quartermaster, Signal, Chemical, Medical and Transportation Corps, were also frequent tenants. Test facilities would include firing ranges, mobility courses, supporting laboratories, arms and ammunition labs (as well as manufacturing facilities), maintenance facilities, machine shops, etc., in order to support full-scale climatic testing as envisioned by the Army.

Following the scientific method, Yuma Test Station would provide complete information regarding the stresses and deficiencies that develop only under conditions of actual use.

During the administration of John F. Kennedy, then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara initiated a complete review of the Department of Defense with an eye towards gaining greater efficiencies. As a result of this review process, in 1963 the Yuma Test Station was re-designated as the Yuma Proving Ground. It is now known as U.S. Army Proving Ground.

The new designation came with increased missions and greater focus. Seen as a great place to test all year round, the core competencies of the Proving Ground were used as a baseline of capabilities as core missions were further developed. YPG remained as the premier test facility for investigations into the effects of the desert climatic environment. In addition, the testing of tube-launched projectiles was the perfect mission for extensive, fully instrumented test firing ranges. Yuma’s great weather made this the ideal test location for air delivery means. The varied terrain and harsh environmental conditions continue to tax to the limits of endurance (and beyond) of combat and automotive systems.

As the Yuma Proving Ground matured, aviation systems found the perfect test site on the ranges here. Tests of Surveillance Drones (today’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV’s) and aircraft armament systems are put through the ringer.

Proof of concept testing, developmental testing and acceptance proof testing of production items continues apace at Yuma Proving Ground. The varied terrain here and the wonderful climatic conditions makes this site a training location of choice for many within the Department of Defense.

Rapid development of items needed by the Department of Defense to fight current wars is but one of the reasons YPG is recognized as an award winning Test facility within the Department of Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base. On any given day, there may be over one-hundred tests being conducted on the various test ranges, test courses and laboratory facilities. YPG conducts tests for friendly nations to the U.S., as well as all branches of the U.S. military services.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Exhibit Area Photos

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Canopy Destroyed - 11/23/14 - Yuma, AZ

Sunday – November 23, 2014
Canopy Destroyed
Imperial Dam BLM
Yuma, Arizona

Well… we had heard about the strong winds that can prevail in the Arizona desert. We experienced it first-hand today. We awoke to another sunny day, with windy conditions. As the morning progressed, the wind picked up speed, very strong, steady winds, with gusts at around 35-45 mph.

Yesterday, we had set up our 10-foot square canopy to provide some shade at our campsite. As the wind speed increased, we could see the metal frame was flexing quite a bit under the strain from the wind blowing on the fabric top of the canopy and a fabric side curtain. Sharon and I were attempting to remove the side curtain fabric, but the wind was so strong, we had to lean into the wind to remain upright. Before we could remove the side fabric, the metal frame of the canopy collapsed into a large, twisted, metal heap. A neighbor, passing by, was kind enough to assist us while we removed the fabric top and side curtain from the twisted metal frame.

Needless, to say, the canopy is toast. The remains are now residing at a recycling center in Yuma, Arizona. We received $1.08 for the metal scrap! Looks like Christmas will come early as we go shopping for another canopy.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Martha's Gardens - 11/21/14 - Yuma, AZ

Friday – November 21, 2014
Martha’s Gardens
Yuma, Arizona

We are enjoying beautiful weather here at the Imperial Dam, BLM LTVA Camping Area. The days are sunny with the temperature in the low to middle seventies. The sunny days are perfect to enable our solar panels to charge our trailer’s deep-cycle battery every day. Oops… spoke too soon. Today, I noticed the solar panels were not providing a charge to the battery. After a few minutes of investigation, I discovered the inline 10-amp fuse holder was the guilty culprit. The plastic housing of the fuse holder had deteriorated and was not providing a firm connection to the 10-amp fuse.

Fortunately, we are located 25 miles north of Yuma, a city with a population of 90,000 people. We located a Radio Shack store there on our smartphone, plugged in the coordinates on our GPS, and off we go! They had all of the items I needed: fuse holder, crimp connectors, and 10-amp fuses. I’ll splice in the new fuse holder on Saturday and our solar panel will be providing power to our battery once again. I’m a happy camper!

On our return to the Imperial Dam, on U.S. 95, I spotted a billboard at the Fortuna Road intersection, advertising the best date shakes in Arizona at Martha’s Gardens. I was anticipating the adventure of having my first date shake. Sharon… not so much!

We followed the Martha’s Gardens signs posted along Fortuna Road. If it had not been for those signs, we would have never found the place. After about three miles, the signs took us off the paved highway onto a graded, dirt road, with some segments having a fairly bad washboard surface. After traveling about two miles on this road we reached Martha’s Gardens. It is a retail store surrounded by a farm of date palms. The store’s supply of dates are fresh from this date farm. It was amazing to see the variety of products they produce from dates.

Originally, I was going to order a date shake, Sharon would taste it, and then decide if she wanted one too. That plan got trashed quickly as we perused all of the products on display in the store. We both ordered a date shake. OMG! They were delicious! We plan to make several return visits to Martha's Gardens during our stay in Yuma.

While we were waiting for our date shakes to be prepared, we sampled a few of their date samples. Dates were cut in half and then filled with different fillings: peanut butter or an assortment of different jams. Absolutely delicious!

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Medical Emergency Team -11/19/14 - Yuma, AZ

Wednesday – November 19, 2014
Medical Emergency Team
Imperial Dam BLM
Yuma, Arizona

The Imperial Dam, BLM, LTVA, iis actually located in California, but in miles, is closer to Yuma, Arizona. It is comforting to know that help is available here, in case of a medical emergency. We are located within 5 miles of the Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), a U.S. Army military installation.

The Imperial Dam LTVA Emergency Team monitors CB Channel 12, 24 hours a day, and is very familiar with the area, so they can lead the emergency vehicles to your location at any time, day or night (approximate 7 minute response time).

When an emergency occurs, a member of the Emergency Team will call the YPG Emergency Center. YPG will dispatch their emergency response vehicles; at the same time, an emergency vehicle from Rural/Metro in Yuma will be dispatched. These vehicles are in radio contact with each other. Should it be necessary to transport a patient to Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC), a transfer will be made to the Rural/Metro ambulance from the YPG emergency vehicle.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yuma, AZ - 11/18/14

Tuesday – November 18, 2014
Imperial Dam
South Mesa BLM
Yuma, Arizona

We awoke to a chilly morning with the temperature in the middle forties at the Quartzsite BLM Short-Term camping area. We had a very tasty breakfast at the Times Restaurant in Quartzsite before departing there at 9:30 a.m.

Arizona and southern California have a sizeable portion of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) federal desert lands. They also receive a large number of long-term RV visitors during the winter months. This combination has created a unique type of camping in the region.

Southwest Arizona and southeast California have campgrounds designated as Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA). These are large areas: some with facilities and some with no facilities.

LTVAs operate from September 15 to April 15 each year. During that time you can stay in one location without moving or you can move to another LTVA. The fee is either $40 for 14 consecutive days or $180 for the September 15 to April 15 period.

Camping on other BLM land is known as dispersed camping. The BLM lets you camp on any BLM lands as long as it isn’t posted against camping. There are absolutely no facilities, you must pack in and pack out everything. This type of camping is usually free, but there is one major caveat: you can only camp in one area for 14 days out of any 28-day period. Once your 14 days are up you must move to another site that is at least 25 miles distant.

A few miles south of Quartzsite, we stopped at a BLM office to purchase the $180 LTVA permit. Since this is our first time spending the winter months in Arizona, we wanted to make sure we camped in BLM areas that had facilities. Since we will be camping on BLM land from November 18 through April 15, our daily camping cost averages out to $1.21 per day. Not bad at all!

While traveling south on U.S. 95 in Arizona, all traffic on the northbound side, at milepost 76, is diverted off the highway through a border patrol checkpoint. We have seen these checkpoints before while traveling through New Mexico last year.

We arrived at the Imperial Dam LTVA, South Mesa Camping Area at 11:45 a.m. This LTVA is actually just a few miles west of the Colorado River, residing in California and 20 miles north of Yuma, Arizona.

The South Mesa Camping Area is an immense desert area. There are no trees for shade, sonora catus and sage brush dominate the landscape, with mountains surrounding the area. RVs are dispersed throughout the area. Some of them are grouped together, but the majority of them are off by themselves. We chose a remote area that affords us plenty of privacy.

The South Mesa Camping Area provides potable water, restroom facilities with flush toilets, trash dumpsters and a dump station. There are fee-based shower facilities available down the road at another BLM camping area. The showers cost $1.25 for five minutes and $1.75 for eight minutes.

Camping Fee: $180.00 per season: September 15 through April 15.
Campsite: Any open area within the BLM

Total miles traveled today: 77
Route Traveled:
South on U.S. Highway 95
West on Imperial Dam Road
West on Senator Wash Road to South Mesa LTVA

Tomorrow another adventure begins.