Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Touching Mexico – Close Enough for Now!

(Why, AZ)  Ken and I woke on Monday, Valentine’s Day, to same-old-same-old, beautiful clear blue skies, highs in the 70’s, slight breeze.  Could this weather get boring—we’ll give it a few decades!!

I must admit neither of us had a really good night’s sleep.  You see, its the burros. The little snots wait until about 10pm and then come up within about 20 feet of our back bedroom window and decide to a sound-off for a minute or two of braying every half hour.  Here’s how it works, donkeys bray, Ditka barks warning at donkeys, Ken growls warning at Ditka, Cindy rouses from almost being asleep,  grumbles and throws her head back in to the pillows.  Repeat this about half dozen times during the night and there’s a good chance that the human barking, growling and grumbling will find its way in to the rest of the day!

Thing is, I think it is REALLY COOL to be sleeping  where these wild little burros are running free.  I’d just prefer they show up when I could photograph them.  It reminds me of my Mom’s saying about children:  they should be seen and not heard!!




When Ken took out the dogs for a morning walk he found plenty of fresh poop-evidence of our noisy night time visitors.  Even better, he came across this really neat ‘relic’ in a nearby Teddy Bear Cholla. 

Look closely.

Apparently a snake had braved the nasty spines of this cactus in order  to use them to shed his skin. As sharp and sticky as these teddy bear cholla are, I’m amazed that the snake wasn’t stuck in there!



We decided we wanted to take a drive down to  the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor’s Center to plan our visit around the area.


The Kris Eggle Visitor’s Center is named after the Park Ranger who was slain in the line of duty here in 2002 when he encountered Mexican drug smugglers.  This memorial, just outside the visitor’s center doors, is set to honor him.  Click here for more on the story of this amazing young man who was only 28 when killed.


The border issues have only worsened since that time and at this time most of the roads in the southern sections of the park have been closed to the public.   This is why we are currently hesitant to go off boondocking totally alone this far south in Arizona.  The sign below has been posted in front of the BLM area between Why and the national park.


I must say, I fell in love with the park campground, Twin Peaks,  behind the visitor’s center.  While this is the busy time of year for them, they seemed to be only about 1/2 full.  The sites are absolutely beautiful nestled amid the saguaro and desert rocks!  There are several trails from the campground and the whole setting is uber natural. The ranger does an educational van tour every day out in to the desert and at 7pm each evening they have a different educational program in the amphitheater.  What a great way to get to know the beautiful living desert all around us.  There is a nice bathhouse in the center of the grounds so your tanks will last longer especially since they mention that it is ok to drop buckets of gray water down the large sinks, just never outside.  They also have a nice dump/fresh water station.  With the ‘geezer pass’ (Golden Age/Senior Pass) we would only pay $6 a night and could stay up to 21 days.   To me this would be a really nice compromise between cheaper, more natural boondocking and the safety and amenities of the RV park. However, Ken, being the more practical of the two of us, was not so convinced.  The number of sites where 40 foot rigs can fit are limited and you have to be really skilled to get in to insure you don’t drive over any of their cactus.  They have  no hookups and generators can only be used in certain sites and only from 8-10am or 4-6pm.  Since we have no solar and 4 year-old batteries, this would put a real crimp in Ken’s 8-11pm chill out time in front of the TV.  Probably worse, and the clincher for me, they have no wifi and so, since our Sprint access does not work here, we’d be sans internet AND phone.  Ok, well, I guess I can stay 10 miles away for $19 a night and just come visit.  But, I’ve noted this here because if you can handle the generator hours and have Verizon for phone/internet, I would definitely consider the onsite campground here at the park.

If you are relatively new to the Sonoran desert, we’d suggest you take a quick loop on the nature trail around the visitors center. 


This is where you can learn to identify some of the desert plants.  They even have pronunciation guides in the free guide they hand out.  Ken and I have been driving around ever since then making a game of calling out and pointing:  sa-WAH-row, CREE-oh-sote, CHOY-yah, Oh-koh-TEE-yoh, , PA-loh VAIR-deh, mess-KEET---like a couple of little kids trying to memorize their vocabulary lessons!!

From the brochures we picked up at the visitor’s center,  We laid out a plan for the next day.  Then, since we were only about 20 miles from the border and had decided NOT to go in to Mexico this trip, we instead decided we’d at least drive down to Lukeville, the border town, to have a look at the infamous border fence and grab some lunch at a cafe we’d been told about.

You really can’t see much of the fence from the main street of Lukeville and I was not keen on driving back too many unmarked dirt roads considering the place is thick with border patrol, so this is the best shots we got of the fence.



We sat by the window  in the cafe next to the border crossing and ate hamburgers while we watched the activity. 


There is a swarm of construction machines everywhere with the active expansion of the Lukeville Port of Entry.  It appears that the primary checkpoint at this time going in to Mexico is temporarily under a tent on the left.


Coming back in to the US, as might be expected, is much more strictly laid out.  However, on the hour we were here, on this mid-day Monday, we never saw a line.


What we did see were many US citizens doing what appeared to be some sort of duty free circle dance.   While we didn’t check to see exactly how this worked, it appeared they would buy the duty free goods at the UETA shop but have to go across the border and then cross back in order to qualify for the duty-free savings.  From what I’ve read this can be 30-55% savings for folks on things like perfume, alcohol and cigarettes.  It was surprising the number of folks we’d see crossing in to Mexico and then a few minutes later coming back out.  If we hadn’t had the dogs with us, we might have tried it, just to say we did!


There also seemed to be a lot of shuttle services bringing folks down here from the bigger cities, like Tucson.   The two vans I saw unload were packed full of folks with lots of luggage.  Hope they had someone to meet them on the other side!!

Ken had backed in to a parking spot directly in front of where we sat in the cafe so that we could keep a watch on the dogs who had joined us on this driving adventure.  They do such a good job of looking like they need attention, don’t you think?




They do such a great job with the sad-eyed abandoned looked that they gots lots of attention and petting to keep them occupied while we ate our lunch.





There were two border patrol checks to cross on the way back to Why, both with canine units, but neither our dogs nor their’s seemed interested in each other, although one border patrolman did take the time to stop and pet and say ‘hello’ to Ditka and Sox.

We enjoyed a nice down evening and an early bedtime, which unfortunately was at about the same time that the burros decided to start serenading us again!

Hugs, C

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