Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

Lampkins Family

Bullhead City & Superstition Bluegrass '04


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February 4, 2004: Two days ago a cold wet storm hit Fresno, dropping a third of an inch of rain in an hour. Itís more normal to get two tenths of an inch in a day-long light rain. The temperature dropped from 50 to 40 in about 15 minutes. This told me it was time to leave the frozen wastes of central California and head for Arizona.

Iím still not warm yet, since Iím in the high desert town of Barstow, which had a dusting of snow last night. Itís all gone, but freezing temperatures are possible tonight. There was light rain coming up the Tehachapi Grade on Highway 58 from Bakersfield to Tehachapi. The hills around that town had snow, and the temperature at mid-day was 39 degrees.

Once I dropped down to the desert, about a thousand feet lower, the temperature went up to 57, but itís 47 here now at dusk. (Twenty minutes later it was down to 45.)

Tomorrow I will be heading for Bullhead City AZ for a bluegrass festival, then Monday I will go to Mesa where my parents are spending the winter. Bullhead is farther south and much lower in elevation, so hopefully it will be relatively warm.

Just as a warning, I will be going to Oregon to visit a cousin for a few days in March, but probably wonít do a report on that trip. However, a long trip is planned for this summer, taking me through Enid OK, St. Louis MO, and to Fulton County OH. I am hoping my six-year old grandson will accompany me. He has a friend near his age living in St. Louis, but heís worried about being away from his mom for a whole month.

February 5: The temperature got down to 31 degrees at Barstow last night. It was in the 50ís most of the day, then as I got closer to my destination it got warmer and warmer, up to about 67. However, it also got windier and windier, and it has been very unpleasant outside here at Bullhead City. The weather forecast is that possibly the wind will die down, but if it doesnít, donít blame the forecaster.

The festival site is in a public campground right on the river, by the bridge to Laughlin, so we will have the amusing sight of old time bluegrass music on one side and the high rise casinos of Nevada on the other.

Yesterday after having lunch at a rest stop near Boron, I realized that I had no DC electrical power in the trailer. This means no water, no lights, no refrigerator Ė and the festival has no hookups. However, after I got set up at Barstow, I briefly turned off the AC electric, and everything seemed fine. It also seemed fine when I disconnected this morning, but at the first stop, it was no longer fine. It appeared that I had a tiny bit of power Ė for example, the exhaust fan would turn a couple of times, then stop. I knew that one of my battery terminals was a little funky, so I pulled off in a big parking lot in Bullhead City, and cleaned the terminals and cables, using a file to remove the crud from the cable ends. This seems to have corrected the problem, and is a reminder to do a better of preventive maintenance.

The festival starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow, and goes till about 5:30 each day. However, four of the groups are performing either Friday or Saturday night at the Ramada Express in Laughlin, with a free shuttle and $5 admission, so I may check out one of those shows.

February 7: This festival has been a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. The music has been good, sometimes great. There is an outstanding lineup, including a number of top name national acts (Doyle Lawson, James King, Rhonda Vincent, Lost & Found, Karl Shiflett). The weather Friday was bad Ė very windy all day. I wore four layers most of the day, cutting down to three for about an hour. Today was much better Ė it was cold this morning, but there was not much wind, and I was able to go down to a T-shirt for a while in the afternoon. By the time the sun went out of sight, I was back up to four layers, but the show was soon over.

There were a couple of gate crashers annoying people for a short time this afternoon. However, the promoter and about six large men, including at least one retired cop, soon sent them on their way.

Overall, it has been a good weekend, even though yesterday I was fairly sure I would not return here again. As good as it has been, many of these same acts can be seen at other festivals when the weather should be better, and this location has a reputation for being cold and windy.

As always, there are a couple of groups I liked very much that are new to me Ė Lost and Found which has been around for 30 years, and the Chapmans, a father and three sons (the oldest is 25). Both of these groups have had considerable success with their recordings and appearances.

February 8: Well the festival is over, and Iíll be moving on in the morning. It was windier and cooler today Ė three layers all the time and sometimes four. The music was good and the people friendly as usual. I sat next to a couple from Missouri who are spending the winter out here. They will go on to Yuma from here. It should be warmer there, but there was snow where they live, so as usual, Arizona is warmer than ďback home.Ē Several of the groups were from cold country (Colorado, Missouri), so they were glad to see sunshine, even with the wind.

The closing act was Rhonda Vincent, who has won several female vocalist of the year awards, and who is probably the number one artist in bluegrass today. After her regular show was finished, she invited any musicians who were still around to join her on stage, and they had a big finale with about 20 people.

Tomorrow I will go more less straight east on AZ 68 and US 40, then take US 93, which heads southeast directly to Phoenix. Itís about 225 miles Ė not a bad dayís drive. My first day was 243 miles, although day two was a short one, only 168 miles. There is a festival next weekend at Apache Junction, east of Mesa, so I will probably drive out there Saturday. Itís only 20 miles or so from where Iíll be staying.

February 10: I had a good trip yesterday from Bullhead City to Mesa (except for the usual big metropolis traffic problems in a couple of places after I got near Phoenix). It was still very windy, with gusts blowing dust while I got hitched up. As I headed east I went through a few miles where the temperature was 37 and it was windy; fortunately I was inside my truck.

The drive southeast on US 93 is mostly very scenic Ė lots of areas with saguaro and other cactus. It goes through some nice mountains with big piles of rounded boulders. At one point several miles of the highway is designated the Joshua Forest Parkway of Arizona. This area has the thickest stands of Joshua trees I have ever seen. In the places I have seen them, mostly along CA 58 and US 395, they tend to be fairly sparse.

Wickenburg looked like a pretty nice vacation spot. Itís in the mountains at 2,000 feet, but was 63 degrees and there was only a slight breeze.

I arrived in the Phoenix area about 2:30, but did not get to the RV park in Mesa till nearly 4:30. After I got set up, my parents and I visited a while and went out to dinner. It was about 63 degrees with thin clouds and NO WIND!

Today we will go to the local senior center for lunch, then who knows after that. Itís still sunny, though it got down to about 35 overnight.

February 12: Yesterday I took my regular ďwhen in Arizona desert hike.Ē East of Mesa and Apache Junction, AZ highway 88, also known as the Apache Trail, heads northeast into the Superstition Mountains, and soon enters the Tonto National Forest. There is a dirt road that goes in 2.5 miles to a trailhead. A few hundred yards from the parking area the trail forks; last year I went right, so this year I went left. This country is the way I think Arizona desert should be Ė mountains and washes, with mostly gentle up and down hiking. There are several varieties of cactus, as well as desert trees and shrubs, with Palo Verde and mesquite being the most common. There has been some rain this year, so there is quite a bit of grass and other green annual plants Ė all in all a very life-filled desert.

I hike until I feel like I have gone half as far as I want to, then rest a while and hike out. I took my current book and settled down under a big Palo Verde for a candy bar and water snack. The map by the trailhead indicated I went about three miles round trip.

The weather was absolutely perfect for hiking Ė about 63 degrees, and hardly any breeze.

Today we went to visit some of my motherís cousins who live in Surprise, on the western side of the metro area, near Sun City. It was a little over 60 miles there, but there are several new loop freeways around the city, so most of the way we were on freeways (lots of traffic in some sections, and heavy traffic when we had to get off and drive a few miles on a major city street). We came home a different way that our cousin suggested; it was about 10 miles shorter and took at least 15 minutes less, despite going closer to downtown Phoenix. We were saved by a diamond lane where we zipped along between 40 and 60 miles an hour past hundreds of single-occupant cars moving bumper to bumper at 20 MPH or less.

Tomorrow mother has a doctorís appointment in the late morning, then we will go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant.

It was a bit cooler today and quite breezy; tonight the wind has been gusting some, and it is about 45 degrees. It is supposed to be about the same Friday, then warm up Saturday.

February 13: This morning I lazed around and read the paper. After motherís doctor appointment, we went to Garciaís, a restaurant about six miles west of here. Had a very good lunch, of which I still have half in my refrigerator.

We then drove out to Lost Dutchman State Park, off the Apache Trail. Dad and I walked around the short self-guided nature trail, and I bought a couple of items in the visitor center. Had pretty good weather, about 60 to 65 all day, with a strong breeze this morning, tapering off this afternoon. Tomorrow I am going to a bluegrass festival in Apache Junction. We drove by there today; itís about 12 miles from where we are staying.

February 18: Iím back home and facing the hardest part of doing this report Ė finishing it up when I am back home among all the distractions and chores that await me here.

The Superstition Mountain Bluegrass Festival turned out well. There were five groups appearing on Saturday, each one doing two sets. I had seen only one of the groups before, and all were good. On top of the list was The Lonesome River Band, which is one of the bigger names in bluegrass. I have several of their CDs, and they immediately became one of my favorite groups to see live. Another widely known group, Special Consensus, is in its 29th year. I had heard about Pine Mountain Railroad on the Internet and bought their CD; they also proved to be an excellent band in person.

The weather was a big improvement over Bullhead City, with a high of about 65 and some light breezes. It was getting dark when the final group played, and as usual in the desert, the temperature dropped significantly, but I was prepared for it. The performers from the south were enjoying the sunshine, but were somewhat surprised at the quick cooling that came with sunset.

On Sunday my parents and I went out to dinner and did some shopping. There are various special events at the RV park where they stay, and Sunday night was an ice cream and cake party, which included entertainment by a couple from Nebraska who sing and play (guitar and organ). They were quite good.

I got my usual ďearlyĒ start Monday, leaving just before 10 a.m. I made it a long day so I could stay in Barstow and have a shorter drive the second day. I got home about 4 p.m. yesterday, to be welcomed by a forecast of heavy rain for the evening. I got most of the stuff unloaded from the trailer, and part of it put away. The rain did not appear till after midnight, and continued steadily till this afternoon, but was never very hard. That storm is on its way to Arizona, with heavy wind warnings for travelers going west from Phoenix, so I made my getaway just in time.

--Dick Estel, February 2004

(Photos open in a new window)


Colorado River Festival - Bullhead AZ

Bluegrass Rules! Lampkins Family Arizona Tradition
Cherryholmes Cherryholmes again Open Road
The Chapmans Lost & Found Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
James King Band Karl Shiflett & Big Country Rhonda Vincent & the Rage
Superstition Mountain Festival
Pine Mountain Railroad Pine Mountain Railroad bus Special Consensus
Superstition Mountain Festival Ron Spears & Within Tradition Lonesome River Band
Arizona Desert
Cholla near Arizona Highway 93 Saguaro in notch Saguaro in need of Viagra

Sedimentary rock mountains
north of First Water hiking area

Saguaro covered hillside Barrel cactus

Web Sites

Recommended CDs, DVDs, Books


James King Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show
Lonesome River Band Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Lost & Found
Pine Mountain Railroad Rhonda Vincent & the Rage Special Consensus
Dick's Bluegrass Links Weather Lost Dutchman State Park
More Arizona Photos Tonto National Forest Superstition Mountain
  Dick's Bluegrass T-Shirt Photos  


Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

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Updated October 17, 2021