I’ve been at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument now for a week, and I’m gradually making adjustments to the lifestyle that is required. The biggest adjustment is being in yet another location without cellular phone service. There is some spotty service with various providers, including the Mexico ‘movistar’ network. There is also AT&T, and celgel GSM, (and maybe others) depending on location and time of day, and whether other foks are connected at the time. Last night I was in Ajo, AZ for a get-together at the division head’s home, and on the way back to the park I called a friend. She faded out at milepost 59. Milepost 80 is at the Mexican border.
Luckily I can call 800 numbers from the office phones at the visitor center, where I am currently working. So I can do some business during the daytime over the phone. Otherwise I go online at night after work, at a particular location within the park where I can get online. It gets dark – very dark – very soon here, the sun going behind the mountains around 5:30 right now. I called my air card provider from the office to make sure I wasn’t being charged for connecting to Mexico. Fortunately, so far there have been no international charges and they have made a notation on my account to not charge me with Mexico roaming charges, as I AM in the U. S.
I’ve pretty much decided that I will plan my phone calls and all-day Internet sessions for a day each week that I’m off. I’ll go the 24 miles to Why, AZ to get connected, get some gas for the truck if needed, and maybe have some lunch. My schedule is four days on and three days off, with two of the four over the weekend.
The park volunteers (except for the camp hosts) are ‘housed’ in a separate area that is gated, usually 24/7. When I first got here the gate was open and inconspicuous because of construction nearby, so I failed to notice it. One night after I learned that there wasn’t any tower connection for phone or Internet in this housing area, I decided to drive to the location in the park where I had heard I might get a signal. When I drove out of the compound I came face-to-face with a locked gate, and not a clue about the code to open it. I was very upset – not only couldn’t I connect with the outside world, I couldn’t even get out of the park!
I turned around and parked the truck and knocked on my neighbor’s door – other volunteers I’d met. I was reminded of the gate code that my instructor HAD given me, but as I hadn’t noticed the gate at the housing area I thought it was for a gate elsewhere in the park. Chilling out for the night became advisable, so I just waited until after work the following day. The most frustrating thing is that before I agreed to come here as a volunteer I asked and was assured that I’d be able to use my cell phone and get online. The true picture was not revealed to me in the interview. I told the division head that without being able to connect to the outside I didn’t think I’d be able to continue here. At this point I am relaxing into the way things are, and there is hope that she will be able to have some booster antennas that were in place last year, but removed, restored to the housing area.
My first day off this week is Wednesday and I will be going down to Lukeville, AZ on the border, about five miles away. There is a post office and grocery, and a gas station there. As I need to mail some things off, I thought it would be a good trip to make to check things out. Also, Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Mexico is only an hour’s ride from here. A lot of folks go down there from here, as well as visiting the town of Sonoyta, about five miles across the border. Apparently there is a favorite restaurant the volunteers like to visit there, something like the Pink Store for the LoWs.
On the fun side, I’ve met some very nice folks here – it’s nice that the division head is someone I met a few weeks ago at the LoW rally, as she is a new LoW member! Also the volunteers and staff have been very friendly. I’ve been on a couple of ‘field trips’ around the park to get oriented to the areas visitors will want to see when they get here. Of course, getting acquainted at the division head’s home last night was helpful, and the food was awesome!
And I don’t want to forget to mention a little about the wildlife, especially the birds. A few days ago the visitor center was graced with the appearance of five Harris Hawks that apparently come here regularly to get water and bathe. That day I didn’t have my camera. But yesterday two of them returned and I got some shots that I’ve put here. This morning as I was working online before work I noticed a cactus wren building a nest in a nearby cholla.
There’s a saying that the volunteers are paid in sunsets, and it’s true that the sunsets here are beautiful, almost every day. In the near future I will be taking the 21-mile loop drive that describes a lot of the elements of this desert. There will be lots of photos forthcoming