Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winter Season

Hard to believe it's been almost four months since my last post. It was just one of those things I kept meaning to do but obviously didn't get done.
For a variety of reasons we decided to spend most of the winter in Fountain Hills this year. Between doctor's appointments, projects on the Bus, and getting together with friends we managed to stay pretty busy. The weather was a bit colder than we like, but certainly warmer than most parts of the country. It was nice to relax and get caught up on things, and we managed to have a few adventures as well.

Death Valley National Park
One of our travel goals is to visit as many national parks as possible and Death Valley is on the list.  It seemed as though every time we were near it the weather was way too hot to stop there.Temperatures average 120 F in the summer and that's usually around the time we were in the area. January weather is pleasant and we thought it would be a good time to check it out.

Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 states in terms of area with 3 million acres of wilderness. It is the hottest, driest and lowest park in the U.S. The highest land temperature recorded there was 201F in 1972, and it holds the record for the second highest air temperature ever recorded in the world, 134F in 1913.
The landscape varies from sand dunes to salt water pools to snow capped mountains.We expected it to be all bleak desert and were surprised at the amount of life that has adapted to such harsh conditions.
One of the attractions in the park is Scotty's Castle, which I thought was kind of like a mini Hearst Castle. Scotty was basically a con man who sold shares to a nonexistent gold mine to wealthy businessmen. When he never produced any gold, all but one of his investors backed out. His remaining investor, Albert Johnson, knew that he was being conned but took a liking to Scotty and continued to give him money. Johnson found that he loved the desert and his wife felt the same way. He purchased property and eventually built what is known as Scotty's Castle.
When I was a kid I watched a TV show called Death Valley Days. It was sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax and that was what I always associated with Death Valley. The Harmony Borax Works was the central feature in the opening of Death Valley. When in full operation, the company employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily. Getting the finished product to market from the heart of Death Valley was a difficult task, and an efficient method had to be devised. The Harmony operation became famous through the use of large mule teams and double wagons which hauled borax 165 miles over the long overland route to Mojave. The "20-mule team" actually consisted of 18 mules and 2 horses and took about 30 days to complete the round trip. 

The Shelby Cobra Museum 

Las Vegas was on our Death Valley route, and what trip to Vegas is complete without going to the Shelby Cobra Museum? If we ever win the lottery Brian will have a Cobra but until that time he'll have to be content just looking (and listening). The museum was actually pretty interesting and the cars were very cool. The most interesting fact that I remember from the tour is that Carroll Shelby was offered 23 million dollars for his first Cobra and he turned the offer down. Yikes.

Wedding Bells
One consideration in deciding where to winter this year was the wedding of my niece Shelby. Only for her would we go to Minnesota in February, and we're happy we did.
The wedding was wonderful and of course I enjoyed being with my family. The weather even cooperated for the first 2 days, and then we experienced one of Minnesota's famous blizzards. Guests at the wedding were getting texts about cancelled flights the night before we were scheduled to fly out, but not us. The airport was pretty well shut down when we got there but our plane flew in, unloaded, loaded, de-iced and we were on our way. I think we were the last flight out before the airport shut down. Good karma?

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