I really did not expect to write a trip report on this trip, but we are doing so much that is interesting that I thought you might be interested also.
This is a short Sun Country Road Runners (SCRR) trip to Show Low lasting from Tuesday, Sept 4 through Friday, September 7. We then plan to drive less than 50 miles to Forest Lakes to visit Keith and Virg Scholl on our way home from this campout. This campout started just a week after getting home from our August trip!
Tuesday, Sept. 4
We arrived shortly after noon following a smooth drive up to I40, east to Holbrook, and south to Show Low. We are in a beautiful area of Ponderosa Pines, and all have full hookup spaces. The only problem is that our space has quite a slope toward the front. I had to put all the blocks I carry under my front wheels, and then my airbag leveling just barely got us level. Our activities started shortly after we got set up. We all drove over to a development nearby where our hosts live, the White Mountain Vacation Village. We were given a tour of the club house and then the various units, some consisting of park model trailers with an expanded "Arizona Room" and covered car ports. They are finished in natural wood siding and with the expansion room are 640 (it may be slightly more) square feet. They all are this size as that is the maximum size that can still be called an "RV". This development is just for RV's. Other areas truly contained RV's. There were many trailers and fifth wheels permanently installed with porches and metal awnings, along with landscaping and gazebos. Others were parking slabs with full hookups for owners of RV's to use for temporary stays. It was very nice.
After the tour we had "heavy Hor s'doeuvers" as our dinner, along with a lot of conversation.
Wednesday, Sept. 5
The first operation is for a fork-lift like machine with giant claws on the front to pick up a stack of raw logs and drive them over to the debarking machine. Here they are dumped on the starting end of the debarker where the logs are fed one at a time through grinders that remove the bark. The bare logs are then fed on a conveyor into the sawmill itself.
There were essentially two complete sawmills inside, one for smaller logs and lumber, the other for the large logs and the larger lumber sizes. On the smaller mill, the first step was for the logs to pass over a large power "rasp" which flattened the bottom of the log. Then the log was rotated and passed through a monster bandsaw which trimmed off boards from the log. These boards would then pass through additional sawing stations to establish the proper widths. At a number of the locations, we could see red laser lines on the logs where the computers were determining the best sawing pattern for that particular log.
The larger sawmill was very much the same except the initial cut was a saw cut, and the resulting lumber tended to be the larger sizes.
There were conveyors everywhere moving lumber, aligning lumber, stacking
lumber, etc. As with anything that irregular, the boards would frequently
get crosswise or out of position. There were a number of workers
which would reach in and straighten these boards.
In another building were the planer stations. Depending on the customers desires, they ship the lumber either rough cut, planed two sides, or planed all 4 sides. While we were there they were running a large order of rough cut lumber, so there was very little wood actually running through the planer area. From the planer area, the wood is stacked and bound ready for shipment
This tour involved a lot of uphill and downhill walking, as well as many up and down steps, but was well worth any effort we had to expend.
As we left the sawmill, we headed to Fort Apache, a few miles away.
We first entered General Crook's Cabin. This is the oldest surviving
building of the fort, having been built in 1871 as one of the officer's
row of buildings. There are a number of other buildings from as late
as 1930. The fort was an active post during the Indian wars.
After the fort was closed as a military establishment it was (and still
is) used as a school founded by Teddy Roosevelt, the Theodore Roosevelt
Indian School. We then visited the Fort Apache Cemetery, which has
occupants burried from the late 1800's to as late as 1980. There
were headstones simply labeled "Indian Scout". Most of the headstones
contain no dates.
We left Fort Apache, back past the sawmill, and arrived at a restaurant where we had lunch reservations. Rosemarie and I had Indian Tacos. These are often called Navajo Tacos, but here they would have to be called Apache Tacos. They consist of Indian fry bread covered with beans, lettuce, cheese with onions, salsa, and sour cream on the side. They were delicious, but were too much after our large breakfast.
After lunch, we loaded back into the cars and headed for a federal fish hatchery a number of miles away. The last 8 of those miles were on an unpaved road. After much dust, bumping, and washboard we finally arrived. Once there, the tour was fascinating! They receive fish eggs from Montana. They have to manually go through them, sucking out dead (white) eggs. If they don't remove them, they grow a fungus and infect the healthy eggs. They have many large tanks where they allow the fish to grow to about 6 inches long before they take them to the outdoor tanks. They have a very scientific method of feeding and caring for the young fish. All the fish we saw were Rainbow Trout, but they raise several other varieties from time to time.
Outdoors they allow the fish to grow to the size they use to stock the
various Indian lakes in the vicinity. The tour was very interesting,
and as our tour guide was the biologist in charge, he really knew the answers
to our questions.
From the fish hatchery, we hightailed it for "home". Back at camp we had only about 15 minutes to get to dinner at the Elk's lodge, but we skipped happy hour and just made it in time for a prepared steak dinner. After dinner we had a demonstration of line dancing by the class from the White Mountain Vacation Village.
From dinner, we went back to the motorhome and were in bed by 8! We were really beat!
Thursday, Sept. 6
The green houses are positively huge glass buildings. The glass
ceilings are of safety glass with many computer controlled opening panels
to control temperature and humidity. The side walls are conventional
glass. The buildings are separated into a number of chambers by internal
glass walls. This helps limit the scope of problems if there happens
to be an infestation in one area.
The plants are planted in a coconut based block. The block is about 18 inches long, and the plants are in small square containers on the top. The roots fill the blocks, while the vines extend up to 40 feet. They are draped horizontally about 20 feet and then rise up to overhead wires which support the weight. There is a vine about every foot in each of the many rows of plants. All together they raise about 250,000 plants at this facility. As the plants grow, they remove the leaves from the bottom several feet. As the tomatoes start to grow, they pinch off any in a group in excess of 5. Some grow in groups as low as 3 or 4, and are left as is. When they reach the proper degree of ripeness, they are picked by groups, with the vines still connecting them, placed in flats, and taken to the packing area. The tomatoes last significantly longer because they are still on the vine. The picking is done by inmates from a local prison and are paid an hourly rate with a bonus if they pick a minimum amount. This goes to repay damages to their victims, pay their expenses, and some to them. Normally they are the only ones to touch the tomatoes during the process, everything else is automated.
There are no pesticides used, but there is an active program using insects
which are natural enemies of the pests which attack the plants. For
pollination, they use bumble bees, not honey bees. Every plant has
a drip irrigation line which supplies the needed water and the mixed in
fertilizers. The plants each use 1 gallon of water a day, one third
of outdoor, in-the-ground tomatoes. We saw the equipment which controls
the irrigation and the area where they mix the fertilizers to infuse into
the water. They have huge water storage tanks. The spring water
they use is collected in one tank and is carefully controlled. After
the irrigation, about 10 to 20 percent of the water drips through the coconut
base and is collected. This water is then purified and reused.
We then saw the machine which places the stickers to the fruit. Each lug passes through a tunnel with a digital camera and has an image taken. A computer analyses each tomato and determines where the sticker should be placed, then applies them using soft rubber bellows to avoid any damage to the tomatoes.
After this step, the lugs are passed through a machine which stacks the lugs, 6 lugs to a level, about 22 levels high on a pallet. From here, the pallet and stack of lugs is advanced to a binding machine. This machine lowers heavy cardboard angles down to the corners of the stack, and then runs a binding tape around the stack at four levels. The tomatoes are then taken to a 54 degree room to await shipment. They are shipped out the same day they are picked, and arrive in refrigerated trucks overnight to West Coast locations. Usually they are in grocery stores by early morning the day after picking. They arrive at East Coast locations within 4 days.
Additional facts: Our guide mentioned that each year they have a crop dusting airplane spray special paint over the roofs of the green houses to help control the temperature during the summer months. At the end of this time, the duster sprays an acid which removes the paint and leaves the glass sparkling clean. Also, the vines are used for about 18 months. After this time the quality of the tomatoes starts to drop, and they remove the vines and start over. The old vines are laid in an adjacent field and at an appropriate time, are burned. They have plans to build an additional green house along with a power house. This would be powered by the old vines.
For a "tour of a tomato farm" that I initially felt might be a waste
of time, I found the tour to be totally fascinating. It is really
a very well controlled business with a high level of automation.
Upon leaving the plant, each of us was presented with a four-pack of fresh
tomatoes in a plastic container.
We left headed to a nearby ranch (25,000 acres, or so) which has a number
of sink holes. Our hosts know the owner and got permission for us
to go on his ranch to see the sink holes. After many miles of dirt
road, we finally pulled off to the side of the road. From there we
walked about a quarter mile to the edge of a very large rock rimmed hole
in the ground. I cannot guarantee my estimates, but I would
guess that the hole was about 500 feet to 1000 feet across. We then
pulled up about another half mile and saw two more sink holes that were
right off the road. These holes were caused by an underground layer
of salt getting washed out by ground water seeping through the sandstone
to the salt. With the salt gone, the ground collapsed. We then
drove a bone-jarring number of miles back to the highway.
We went to a city park in Snowflake where we had a picnic lunch, again
supplied by the hosts. We fired up two of the park barbecues and
had hamburger and brats, along with chips, salad, and all the trimmings.
It was delicious and a lot of fun.
We went back to camp, and actually had several hours to rest! Then it was off to a potluck dinner at the pavilion. Did I ever tell you that we really eat a lot on these outings?
Friday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept, 9
After breakfast, we did our final packing for the long trek (48 miles) to the Scholl's house in Forest Lakes, where we spent Friday and Saturday nights. We had a great time with them, working on several "tasks" around their place, and continuing to eat far too much!
Sunday morning, we were getting ready to leave when Virg, who was on-duty as the volunteer fire department dispatcher, received a call of an accident. It was an ATV that rolled over at a remote location on a forest road. It was fascinating to hear the phone and radio calls needed to coordinate everything. As the crews went out the back roads toward the accident, there were additional calls about the condition of the victim (broken bones, internal injuries). The paramedics requested a helicopter to be put on standby. Upon reaching the accident they gave the latitude/longitude coordinates of the landing area they had scouted out and requested the helicopter. We followed the various arrivals of the crews and the helicopter, and finally the lift-off of the helicopter enroute to the trauma center and the "departing for quarters" call from the ambulance and fire rig. I knew that Virg was one of a number of local dispatchers, but had no idea of the complexity of the job. I am impressed!
As I stated earlier, I had not intended to even write a report of this short trip, but I hope you have enjoyed some of our activities as much as we did!
Dick and Rosemarie
Dick Mason, Prescott, AZ 9/10/07