Life on the Open Road (April 2006 - May 2008)

The continuing saga of a single fulltime RVer who travels the western US. This is part one of my journey, from April 2006, when the blog started, to May 2008, when the blog continues at

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I have been a full-time RVer for 18 years, primarily "boondocking," camping free without hookups, in the Western US. I am connected electronically with the world via satellite TV, phone and internet. My batteries are charged solely by solar panels. I welcome your comments and emails.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hike to Wind Cave

Diana, Barbara, and Ron felt like hiking, so they headed off to Usury Mountain State Park in Phoenix to go up to Wind Cave. They are aiming for that stripe around the mountain about 2/3 of the way to the top. The desert was green and happy from the recent rains.

Almost there!

Here we are at Wind Cave. Nice, but not as good as the scenery on the way up.

From here, you can see the Phoenix air marker in the distance. We've always wondered why it was there and how it got there.

It's visible for quite a distance on the ground too.

Turns out it was built in 1956 by some Boy Scouts. Still don't know why. Maybe the pilots were having a hard time finding Phoenix?


Blogger Desert Diva said...

Back in the 1950s, a pilot named Charles Merritt was looking for a community service project for his Air Explorers Boy Scout Post. Charlie was quite a character, and I was fortunate to meet him at a local airport one day as he was fueling "Old Betsy," his well-worn Cessna 205 in between jump runs for the skydiving club. Yes, that's right—the Sky-Hi Pioneers Air Explorer Post and Sky Diving Club. I was about 15 at the time.

Charlie had been around. He was a barnstormer back in the 1930s, and I suspect he was one of the first "sport" parachutists in the country. He used to jump out of the plane in front of a grandstand full of people, land in front of the crowd, and have some kid come down out of the stands and stuff the parachute back in its pack. Literally. And then he'd go back up and jump with it again. This man died of old age, but I don't know how he ever made it that far!

As a young pilot at old Roosevelt Field in New York, Charlie told me he had known other pilots like Charles Lindbergh and Wiley Post.
All of this just doesn't fit, if you ever had seen Charlie or a photo of him. He was no "swashbuckler"—not in appearance, anyway. I'll bet he wasn't over 5'4", and he was nearly that same measurement in diameter. But he was Errol Flynn at heart!

Well, he liked kids, and so he became a scout master as he grew older. The Boy Scouts of America was none too keen on having Scouts jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. So when they were on the ground, they were Scouts. The minute they took off in the airplane to climb up a few thousand feet for a parachute jump, the Boy Scouts disavowed all connections with them (until they landed safely back on the ground).

Back to the PHOENIX sign. Charlie decided that transient pilots needed a "navigational aid" to help them find Phoenix. So the Sky-Hi Pioneers humped the rocks into place to form the sign on the side of a mountain 40 miles east of the city. They whitewashed it and maintained it for quite a few years, I believe. I don't know who does it now. In these days of VOR/DME radio navigation, and now GPS, such a marker is of little value perhaps. But I smile every time I see it, because it reminds me of Charlie Merritt, who, though long dead now, is still one of the most interesting people I've ever met.

The most interesting thing about Charles Merritt? Keep in mind all the things he'd done: flying old airplanes, jumping out of them with kid-packed parachutes... He wouldn't drive a car! He said driving with all the crazies out there wasn't safe. He lived in Phoenix, worked in Tucson, and flew "Old Betsy" back and forth every day. For ground transport, he relied on his wife and daughter if he couldn't get there by plane. Go figure.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Lew & Jan Johns said...

In 1973 we lived in a tent for 6Months at Blue Point (just over the hill from Usery Pass in the Goldfield Mts) on the Salt River. We didn't know we were "Boondocking". Had the time of our lives. Lived on Kraft Mac 'r Cheese, canned beans, a lot of Cantaloupe (fields of it in Mesa) and Rabbit Stew (we poached the King's Rabbits). Beer was free....Tubers floating down the river would get their coolers dumped in a Riffle above us and the 6-packs of beer would float up out of a Whirlpool just in front of our camp. Due to density difference just the beer came up, no soda-pop.

"Those were the Days, my Friend. We thought they'd never end. We'd Sing and Dance forever and a Day. We'd live the life we choose, we'd Fight and never Lose...."


6:13 AM  
Anonymous roamingbarbara said...

Those are two really interesting comments. I had wondered about the Air Explorer Boy Scouts - I had never heard of such a thing. I guess it was old Charlie's idea. And living in a tent for six months - that is roughing it. Well, except for the free beer - how funny!

9:09 AM  
Blogger onthemove said...

Enjoyed the story about the Phoenix sign. I do not remember seeing it. Was that off the Bush Hwy going up the Salt River? Thanks!

10:15 AM  
Blogger Gypsybelle said...

hey where are you? I would like some business cards and I am at Superstition MT at the ELks. Are you nearby.


8:12 AM  

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